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Art, Music, and Architecture Around the World / Humanities Courses Next Lesson
History of Funk Music
Chapter 3 / Lesson 9
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Instructor: Christopher Muscato
Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern
Colorado.

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Funk music is a unique genre that held an important place in popular culture during
the 20th century. In this lesson, we'll explore the history of funk and see how it
came to be so funky.
Funk Music
In the immortal words of George Clinton and the band Parliament, ''We need the
funk. Gotta have that funk''. Oh yeah, it's time to get funky. Funk music is a
popular genre of the 1970s and 1980s technically defined by a combination of
African American soul music and a strong syncopated beat. But the definition
offered by musical legend Prince hits closer to home: ''If you can describe it, it
ain't funky''. Funk is defined less by a strict set of stylistic rules and more by
an attitude, with of course a beat that encourages dancing. But if you want to
really understand it, you need to know its history. Gotta have that funk.

African American Music in the 20th Century


Funk music is not an isolated genre, but one comes from a rich musical lineage. In
the late 19th century, African American musicians began gaining national attention
for some very unique sounds that blended African rhythmic traditions with American
gospel. By the early 20th century, this general sound was being called jazz music,
although it lacked a standard definition. Jazz was about improvisation, freedom of
expression, lively tempos and innovative rhythms.

The freedom of jazz, and its growing popularity, brought wider attention to African
American musical styles and encouraged these musicians to continue experimenting.
Many different forms of jazz music emerged, but most were heavily identified with
young, black, urban culture. These traits defined the attitude of jazz, as well as
its role in the new dancing and entertainment cultures of the Roaring Twenties.

The Rise of Soul


From jazz, other sounds emerged as well, also closely associated with young, black
urbanites. In the 1960s, the dominant new sound was a mixture of blues and gospel
music with a wider appeal and again, a notable rhythm. This genre was called Soul.
While Harlem was the focal point of jazz, Detroit became the epicenter of that
''Motown Sound''. Motown musicians like the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and even
Stevie Wonder embraced a different style and sound than jazz, but the genres were
connected in many ways, and both connected to African American urban identity in a
still-segregated United States.

A Funky Sound
Of the 1960s soul artists, one stood out for an especially distinct sound. James
Brown had a strong voice, but also focused his music much more heavily on a bold,
syncopated rhythm. While rhythm had long been a staple of African American genres,
Brown's use was different. It was sharp, disproportionately heavily, and
accentuated by the lyrics and Brown's performance style. This rhythm, which
demanded being danced to, along with Brown's unapologetic attitude and racial pride
would go on to be cornerstones of funk music.

James Brown
James Brown
This sound was carried on by George Clinton. Clinton originally led a doo-wop/soul
band called the Parliaments, but in the late 1960s and early 1970s would go on to
found two of the formative funk bands: Funkadelic and Parliament. These bands
embraced a strong rhythmic attitude like James Brown, but carried it even further
with a stronger groove, a sense of rhythmic pulse that had been a part of African
American musical traditions since the first days of jazz. Clinton's music combined
elements of rock and roll, jazz, blues, soul, and gospel into what would become the
definitive sound of funk.

The Parliaments
Parliaments
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You are viewing lesson 9 in chapter 3 of the course:


Art, Music, and Architecture Around the World
17 chapters | 231 lessons

Ch 1. Renaissance Art &...


Ch 2. Religious Art, Music &...
Ch 3. Musical Genres
Absolute Music Composers
Absolute Music vs. Program Music 5:20
Absolute Music: Definition & Examples
New Age Music History
What is Dubstep Music? - Definition, Types & Artists
How to Read Alto Clef: Notes & Staff
Understanding the Piano: Keys & Notes
What is Funk Music? - Definition & Characteristics 3:57
History of Funk Music
Next Lesson

Funk Music: Artists, Albums & Songs


What is a Round in Music?
Refrain in Music: Definition & Examples
David Bowie: Biography and Quotes
David Bowie: Albums, Music & Movies
What is a Rebec?
Motown Records: Founder, History & Artists
What is a Song? - Definition & Examples 5:53
What is a Chorus in a Song? - Definition & Examples 4:31
What is the Bridge of a Song? - Definition & Examples 5:22
What is an Alla Breve?
Shakuhachi Flute: History & Music
A Capella Music: Definition & Songs
What is a Verse? - Definition & Examples
Music Auditions: Songs & Tips
The Four Seasons by Vivaldi: Analysis & Structure 6:52
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Camelot the Musical: Synopsis, Characters & Songs
The Nutcracker Ballet: Composer, Music & Story
What is Sonata Rondo Form?
Composers of the Second Viennese School
Afro-Cuban Jazz: History & Artists
Intertextuality in Music: Definition & Examples
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Flight of the Bumblebee & Scheherazade
Apache Fiddle: History & Music
Go to Musical Genres
Ch 4. Music from the Classical...
Go to Music from the Classical Period
Ch 5. Art Genres
Ch 6. Art & Architecture of the Ancient...
Ch 7. Art & Architecture of Ancient...
Ch 8. Art & Architecture of Ancient...
Ch 9. Art & Architecture in the...
Ch 10. Art & Architecture in Ancient...
Ch 11. Ancient South American Art &...
Ch 12. Art & Architecture in Ancient...
Ch 13. Architectural Themes
Ch 14. Art & Architecture of...
Ch 15. Art of the Neoclassical...
Ch 16. Carving, Woodcuts & Woodblock...
Ch 17. Glass in Art &...
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