Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Rise of Funk — and its New Orleans ties

It's kind of natural, that it'd all begin with Dick, if you know what I mean. New Orleans was the place, and the 1940s was the time. Blues was still the prevalent music for black folks. Rock and roll didn't exist. What did exist was "New Orleans" R&B. This subgenre of Rhythm & Blues was typified by rapid-fire playing of the piano and holy ghost wails from the vocalist. Richard Penniman aka, Little Richard ventured down to Nola to get some of this vibe when he ventured into a studio in the crescent city. What Little Richard did was validate this artform and bring it to the masses. It later solidified and crusted into "Funk," which we all know about today.
The recipe — which is basically a gospel base with one part New Orleans R&B, one part European electro, one part blues, one part LSD — got its start right here in the Big Easy. Now, RUN TELL DAT!
Follow the chronology like so:

1. Little Richard comes to New Orleans for studio sessions. He fuses gospel leanings with "New Orleans R&B," a furious piano style and horn style. In between sessions, he sings a song called "Tutti-Frutti, Good Booty." It is changed to "Tutti-Frutti (aw, Rutti)" and becomes his first hit.
2. Little Richard gets "this new cat," James Brown, who is influenced by him, to come to Macon, Ga. (along with Bobby Byrd). They both perform "R&B".
3. Little Richard tours Europe.... shows ropes to "4 British boys" : Paul, George, Ringo and John. Mick jagger opens for Litte Richard (and Bo Diddley) in Europe. (The Beatles open for Little Richard as well).
4. James Brown hires bass player named "Bootsy Collins," for his band, The JBs (with also includes saxophonist Maceo Parker, who starred on all of the solos in the band's biggest hits).
5. Bootsy later moves to Detroit to join a Motown song writer by the name of George Clinton, in a band called Funkadelic. Clinton, the self-described "Prime Minister of Funk," started recording under Motown with a doo-wop group called the Parliaments. They would eventually morph into Parliament/Funkadelic.
6. A young, prolific musician, Jimi Hendrix, plays guitar for Little Richard's touring band, The UpSetters, for a short time. Psychedelia hits America (recreational use of LSD explodes).
7. Rick James moves to Motown, and after his band aspirations expire, becomes a staff songwriter, writing under the name Terry Johnson. Later Rick James records a solo album of pure funk.
8. An outrageous funk band, Sly and the Family Stone, emerges in the 1970s, led by a bass player who introduces the "slap technique," and spawns a genre of disco. His name is Larry Graham.
9. Prince opens for Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones in 1980 and Rick James in 1981. Prince with his best albums driven by funk, spawns the "Minneapolis Sound," heavy synth bass, pop percussions and melotic cords.
- Prince joins Larry Graham in the mid-1990s and the two join with Maceo Parker to create a more understated funk.
- Who has the funk now?

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