Soul and Funk



What is Soul and Funk Music?

James Brown, of the First Order of Funk.

Martin Luther King Jr. inspired a sense of hope and peace that transcended artists and people alike, who felt that America had a responsibility to live up to the values it claimed to own.  During the 1950’s, music tended to focus on the idea of solitary remorse and forlorn abandonment.  While the music of the 1950’s was more inclined to relationship woes, the revolutionary era of the 1960’s produced a sense of independence, and the power of the individual voice. Soul music helped open the eyes and hearts to people who may have had prior hesitations or close-minded viewpoints, and sparked an appreciation and recognition for African American artists that was long overdue.

The singer is the main component of soul music, which is appropriate due to the elevated promotion of expression.  Ensemble based music groups were responsible for the dance culture in America, which rose greatly during this decade.  The 1960’s and elevation of attitude and thinking that soul music stimulated set the stage and boosted expectations for the future ahead.  Aretha Franklin was a leader for women of all skin colors because she wasn’t afraid to express her feelings of inequality through her music, and she understood the importance of her lyrics and the message(s) that needed to seep through society.  Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul, helped set the groundwork for equality.

In I Say a Little Prayer, Ms. Franklin isolates the heart of her listeners, and is determined to life their spirits.  Ms. Franklin is the epitome of a woman.  Constantly using wide, open, elongated vowels she elicited great sensation.  The Jackson Five, while different from The Queen of Soul, were imperative artists in the up rise of soul music.  These young kids changed the face of ensemble groups, and thanks to their tyrannous father, they were able to change the world as we know it.  I want You Back, by The Jackson 5 is an exciting and buoyant melody.  The vocals in this song are mainly placed in the head voice, inferring desperation, pleading, and anguish.  The scatting turns into screaming as the song’s steaks are elevated.  The Jackson 5 was able to target the essence of affliction and spin it around to make the listener feel hopeful.

While ideologies including the expansion of the individual voice were being encouraged, in funk music there was camaraderie and an appeal to a sound that included a mix of technical elements.  Rhythm is the leading characteristic of funk, and the riff is responsible for producing the groove of the song.  The notion of the 1960’s presented a platform for lyrical content to express a freedom of thought that lent itself to other worldly realms, and a sense of humor.  Funk helped release former social obligations which left room to create innovative concepts of composition.

James Brown’s popularity stemmed from the fact that his personality was deeply rooted in his performances.   Santa Claus go Straight to The Ghetto, turns heads with the title itself.  There is an apparent   intimate connection with this song, and the personalization is evidenced when he makes a shout out to himself, “tell them James Brown sent ya.”  Bootsy Collins was another vital ingredient to funk music, due to his outlandish routine and high-spirited songs.

Bootzilla, is mystical from the get-go, with its synthetic sounds, and vocal exclamations.   The chorus repeats, “wind me up,” and judging by the speed of Mr. Collins monologue it seem he himself is already quite “wound up.”  Funk music allotted artists of all kinds to experiment and flourish in their own right.