Soul Deep - The Story of Black Popular Music
Ain't It Funky - Ep 5/6
June 4, 9.00-10.00pm
The tough, urban syncopated rhythms of funk were the sound track to the riots and revolutions of the late Sixties and early
Seventies. Soul Deep traces the roots of funk from James Brown's seminal Papa's Got A Brand New Bag to the crazy psychedelia
of George Clinton.
By emphasizing the first beat of every bar in Brand New Bag, Brown created a musical revolution that changed the course of
rhythm and blues, opening the way for hip hop. Brown says: "Well, I took it off the top and put it on the bottom". Brown's music
mirrored a new era for African Americans defined by the Black Panthers and a new racial epithet - negro was out and black was in.
Rickey Vincent, funk expert, explains: "People said 'what we have is tight, what we have is cool.We gotta lot of raw style, we gotta
lot of rhythm.We're bad ass."
The night after Martin Luther King's murder Brown performed an extraordinary concert in Boston which was televised live to lure
potential rioters back into their homes. Here he appealed for peace, using his status as a black man. Later that year he released Say
It Loud I'm Black And I'm Proud - a song which was embraced by black people but rocked the whites - with many radio stations
refusing to play it.
Born out of liberal San Francisco, Sly and The Family Stone was a funk act which brought the psychedelic into soul. A multi-racial
band, it entered the Seventies with one of the most influential funk tracks ever - Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself." And it was
this new edge which influenced two emerging songwriters at Motown, Norman Whitfield and Barratt Strong, who became the
architects of that label's psychedelic soul years. "When Motown saw what was happening, they shifted.They shifted as much out of
commercial acuity as artistic integrity," describes commentator David Ritz.
Two of Motown's biggest stars in the Seventies were Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. Gaye rebelled against his clean cut,
boy-next-door image to record What's Goin' On, an anthem for change inspired by his brother's time in Vietnam. "It's basically a
landscape painting of post-Vietnam Afro-American ghetto life. Marvin takes what is ugly and makes it beautiful."
Inspired by Gaye, Stevie Wonder negotiated himself considerably more artistic freedom from Motown. He hired TONTO - Malcolm
Cecil and Bob Margouleff, two studio whiz kids who specialized in analogue synthesizers and a new sound was born.
If previous soul musicians reflected social unrest and the plight of the Afro American, George Clinton's psychedelic glam-funk was in
the realms of fantasy. "I was a traffic cop, ringmaster, a bridge between great musicians.The humour had to be there because it was
so serious in those times," he explains.
But just when funk looked like it had had its day, a new style emerged from the burnt-out Bronx bringing the music back to gritty
social reality - hip-hop.