The best funk artists of all time

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Funk was born in the mid-1960s through the mix of various music genres, with the purpose of creating a new style that made the groove its essential component. Funk grew over the ages, very quickly among the African American community, and imposed itself over the national boundaries, thanks to some artists that made it popular.

Here are the most important groups and artists of all time according to popularity, impact and influence.

James Brown

James Brown - It's A Man's Man's Man's World

If James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, had never existed, probably Funk music would have had a minor influence and, surely, it would not have had the same success. 

From I Got You a Get Up Offa That Thing to Hot Pants, from The Payback to Living In America played in Rocky IV, his repertory of songs became part of the music history.

Sly Stone

Sly & The Family Stone - Dance To The Music (Audio)

Nowadays, Sly Stone is forced to live in a camper after he dilapidated all his holdings, but at the beginning of the 1970s he was one of the main American musicians. Sly & The Family Stone was the first multiracial band that emerged in the international scene. They wrote some intense pages of funk and soul.

Dance To The Music, I Want To Take You Higher, Underdog and Don’t Call Me NiggerWhitey are the band’s most popular funk songs.

Joe Tex

Joe Tex is included among the most famous funk artists and among the pioneers of this musical genre. His rivalry with James Brown is extremely famous and it was full of plot twists.

I Gotha and Ain’t Gonna Bump No are his most relevant songs.

We remember him also because of his peculiar singing style, more similar to spoken words than proper singing, that let him being labeled as the first rapper ever.

George Clinton 

One Nation Under A Groove - Funkadelic (1978)

Over the 1970s George Clinton ruled the music scene by intensifying the rhythm, mixing Funk with Psychedelia and Rock. The creatures of the Dr. Funkenstein, the Parlaments and Funkadelic affected this genre and they showed the enormous possibilities for the development of Funk.

Free Your Mind… And Your Ass Will Follow, the title of Funkadelic’s second album, embodies the essence of the philosophy of Clinton’s Funk. The main songs of his production are One Nation Under A GrooveGive Up The Funk and Flashlight


The Cisco kid- War

War is the band that expanded the boundaries of Funk, by inserting in their music elements of Reggae, Jazz and Latin music. Eric Burdon, who joined the group after having left the Animals, contributed to their sound and success. Low Rider, The Cisco Kid and The World Is A Ghetto are their most known works.

Ohio Players

Ohio Players - Love Rollercoaster

The Ohio Players reached a peak of their popularity in the middle of the 1970s. With four consecutive albums that reached the top positions in the charts (Skin Tight, Fire, Honey and Contradiction) they marked the hottest season of funk.

Their hits are Funky Worm, Sweet Sticky Thin and Love Rollercoaster.

Isley Brothers

Isley Brothers - Fight The Power (Parts 1 & 2)

The Isley Brothers went through various seasons over their interminable career. From Gospel to Soul and R&B, this band got its definitive consecration over the 1970s as a Funk group.

Fight The Power, That Lady and The Pride are the songs Isley Brothers built their myth through.

Graham Central Station

Graham Central Station - The Jam

After the end of the partnership with Sly Stone, the bassist Larry Graham founded his own band, with which he climbed the charts over the second half of the 1970s. With the Graham Central Station, the bass guitar of the leader has a prominent position and songs like The Jam, Hair and Do Yah are the best examples of the creativity of this band.

Bootsy Collins

Bootsy Collins - I'd Rather Be With You

Cardinal member of James Brown’s band and of Funkadelic/Parliament, Bootsy Collins was, together with Graham, the most influent bass player of the funk scene. 

His bizarre and creative style enlarged the known boundaries of the groove and he made this instrument protagonist of the evolution of Funk.

The Commodores

The Commodores - Brick House

Before becoming one of the protagonists of 1980s’ pop music, Lionel Richie was the creative mind of the Commodores, undisputed protagonists of the international charts.

Besides having composed that masterpiece that takes the name of Easy, the Commodores published some remarkable Funk gems like Brick House, Fancy Dancer, Machine Gun, Hold On and The Bump.

Earth Wind & Fire

Earth, Wind & Fire - Let's Groove (Official HD Video)

Among the most known funky bands and artists, the Earth Wind & Fire let an unmistakable sign in music history. Maurice White’s band obtained the attention of the public with Shining Star in 1975 and after that it never stopped, by pulling out successes repeatedly.

Their sound grew over the years and from the pure Funk of the first period of activity they became forerunners of Disco Music, which will rule in the late 1970s. September, Let’s Groove and Boogie Wonderland are some of the songs with which White and the Earth Wind & Fire let their own futuristic mark in Western music.

 Kool & The Gang

Kool & The Gang - Celebration

Kool & The Gang wrote some of the most glorious pages of Funk, with songs like Funky Man, Funky Granny, Funky Stuff and the notorious Jungle Boogie.

After having started their career as a Jazz band, these musicians understood how to develop their sound by filling it with references and suggestions taken, several times, from various other musicians.

Rick James

Rick James - Super Freak (Official Music Video)

Rick James was the greatest Funk star between the 1970s and the 1980s and the man who took this genre to its essence again by making it move away from the predominant Disco Music.

James introduced Punk elements inside this genre and he collected an impressive amount of hits over his career. A few other Funk artists can boast songs like Super Freak (sampled by Mc Hammer for his track U Can’t Touch This), Mary Jane, Give It To Me Baby and Bustin’ Out.


Prince - Controversy (Official Music Video)

Prince took the best characteristics of James Brown, Sly Stone and George Clinton and mixed them together. This created the Minneapolis Sound. The uniqueness and geniality of his songs, that melded New Wave, Electronic, Psychedelic music and all that came in his mind, brought to light songs like Kiss, PartyMan, Housequake, Dirty Mind, Controversy and D.M.S.R.

Article translated from here by Giorgia Silvestri

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