“Hey, come on, come along take a ride, there’s a party over there, that ain’t no jive, It’s live, live, it’s all the way live don’t even have to walk, don’t even have to drive, just slide, glide, slippity-slide, just forget about your troubles and your 9 to 5 and just sail on now this groove’s so funky, hey, what you think, what is it called, let’s call it the journey to the land of FUNK.”
Those are the words of the Dayton, Ohio native funk band, Lakeside, whose smash hit from the 1980’s Fantastic Voyage was the motivating sound for the 1994 Grammy Award Win for Best Solo Rap Performance by the rapper Coolio.
Funk gave us the timeless elements of the most innovative and commercially successful acts of all time Earth, Wind, and Fire whose Kalimba style mixed with one of the greatest brass horn sections of all time grand them 6 Grammy Awards from 17 nominations. Funk also brought us the sounds of Kool and The Gang (Summer Madness sampled by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Jhené Aiko and Ice Cube ), B.T Express (Do It-til you’re satisfied sampled by Beyonce’ and Jay-Z), Cameo (Candy sampled by Beyonce’, Tupac and Jacquees feat. Rich Homie Quan), The Bar-Kays (Holy Ghost sampled by the Beastie Boys and Kid ‘N Play) and Con Funk Shun the group that got us all onboard on ‘Love’s Train’.
So who was the director of the funk cruise ship?
The Godfather of Soul, James Brown brought us what is now known as Funk in the 1960s with a signature groove that emphasized the downbeat with a strong bass line, soul music with a greater emphasis on beats created to make the listener groove/move. James Brown’s style of Funk was the driving influence of Sly and The Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix rock/psychedelic sound.
From the director of Funk, James Brown, came one of the most legendary bass players that ever-graced wax was Cincinnati native Bootsy Collins who would take his driving baselines to another Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend George Clinton Parliament-Funkadelic before Bootsy Collins recorded his solo Funk classic hit ‘I’d Rather Be With You’ in 1976, but stay woke Bootsy Collins hit was the music bed to Donald Glover AKA Childish Bambino’s Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Performance in 2018 for his song Redbone. George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic with Bootsy Collins, whose style of funk was influenced by the combination of Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix, was the pilot of The Mothership Connection in the 70’s that gave us that psychedelic funk of Aqua Boogie, Flash Light, and One Nation Under A Groove giving birth to the Ohio Funk bands of the 1970s and ’80s that were part of that great nation that resided under the groove.
The Ohio Funk Connection
Three brothers from Cincinnati, OH, O’Kelly, Rudolph and Ronald started a band with gospel vocals and doo-wop harmonies before adding their brothers Ernie, Marvin, and brother-in-law Chris Jasper in the 70’s to become one of the greatest Funk bands in the land, The Isley Brothers, that have recorded 14 albums selling over 18 million units in the United States alone. The Isley Brothers are known for countless hits that include ‘It’s Your Thang’, ‘Fight The Power’, and ‘Caravan of Love’ to name a few. The four-time Grammy Award-winning Isley Brothers were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 however the band is still active to this day.
William “Bootsy” Collins was born and raised in Cincinnati forming a funk band with his brother and others in 1968 called The Pacemakers. The Pacemakers were hired in March of 1970 to be the backing band for James Brown after Brown’s original band quit over pay disputes. The band’s name was changed to the JBs and recorded some of Brown’s biggest records including “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine”, “Super Bad”, “Soul Power”, and more. Bootsy’s talent caught the attention of Brown and the two fostered a father-son type of relationship. But Bootsy had bigger aspirations and left the JBs and moved to Detroit where he eventually met George Clinton and joined Parliament-Funkadelic. Bootsy earned several songwriting credits while playing for Funkadelic but left to form his own band Bootsy’s Rubber Band in the early 1980s. Over the years Bootsy has had chart-topping hits and even was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 along with 15 other members of Parliament-Funkadelic. Bootsy also earned a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in 2019.
The Ohio Players hailing from Dayton, Ohio brought their Fire on Funk along with their edgy Sweet Sticky Thing album covers and one of the funkiest most notable frontman/electric guitar players in Funk history Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner is best known for their hit classic ‘Love Roller Coaster’. The Ohio Players music has been sampled by N.WA., Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest, and Busta Rhymes just to name a few. The Ohio Players also gave us another Ohio Funk legend hailing from Cincinnati, the late Roger Troutman and Zapp who brought the computerized element to Funk with hits such as ‘Computer Love’ and for our new school ‘California Love’ by Tupac featuring Dr. Dre. Dayton, Ohio is also the home of Slave who’s hit single ‘Watching You’ was the masterpiece sample to Snoop Doggs hit ‘Gin and Juice’ that earned the rapper a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance.
Cincinnati was the home to record label King Records owned by Syd Nathan in the Evanston neighborhood. King Records studio was the go-to for many artists from 1943-1971. The studios housed artists of all genres and were mainly known in the beginning for specializing in country music. But after acquiring other labels King Records soon became a go-to place for funk and R&B artists like James Brown, Bootsy Collins, Vicki Anderson, Phillip Paul, and more. In 2008 King Records was officially designated as a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame landmark and a sign was added outside of the building to educate passersby’s about the historical significance of the building. Although King records are long gone and the building is currently a boarded-up, the City of Cincinnati has purchased the property and plans are underway to transform it into a community cultural space.
As great as Funk music is/was along with the traditional bands that produced it, Funk bands were destroyed by money and technology, eventually giving way to derivative forms of music such as hip-hop, neuro-funk, and present-day R&B, with bands being replaced by beat machines.
Unlike the philosophical dilemma, what came first the chicken or the egg, in the music world there is a clear-cut answer, before there was Hip Hop there was Funk and one can make the argument that the road to Funk went through Ohio.