The Funk Revolution
Looks Back On The Funk Revolution
The "Funk Revolution in the seventies was a pioneering experience for allot of bands. The movement wasn't just funk groups but black groups period that played their own instruments and were self contained. The list is long but the list does come to an end as far as the ones pathing the way in my opinion:
James Brown, Sly and the Family, Buddy Miles Band, Mandrill, Funkadelic, Earth Wind and Fire, Barkays, Ohio Players, Kool and the Gang, War, Rare Earth, Average White Band, and Rufus. It takes my breath away even getting all the names out but you can see the pioneers stop at this point. These are the bands that performed the "Funk Festivals" circuit. For 5-7 dollars you could see up to four top groups on bill. Each band would be in direct competition with one another pulling for top bill. Each band had their regions they were more popular in than the other bands so the headliner changed all the time.
One night "Mandrill" would headline the next night it would be "War" and so on and so on.
Black promoters were just catching on to funk groups drawing big at the box office. They watched agencies like ATI put Mandrill with Deep Purple, and Earth Wind and Fire with Uriha Heep. A result of the combinations were black and white audiences filling stadiums across the Country.
There were promoters like Bill Washington who was successful promoting R & B shows and did his best to make sure everything went right. Then there were promoters like Teddy Power who didn't know how to handle big crows and was focused on the box office and not putting on a quality event. Many black promoters were like that in the day.
I've seen people stabbed right in front of me at the Spectrum and a women being thrown off the balcony. I've been beat-up myself at a show in Atlanta.
There was a riot at Randels Island when the bill was Mandrill headlining with Buddy Miles, Rufus, Rare Earth, and Funkadelic. The stadium is on an island and only one way in and out. The stadium was packed with forty thousand angry people waiting for the show to start. The reason it was delayed was the sound system was a sure vocal master p.a. with like eight speakers on each side. The system could not fill the front rows let alone the stadium.
Funkadelic took the stage and did pretty much their hole set. The crowed began to riot beating-up venders and stealing their money and goods. Rufus said no, were not going out there. Buddy said no. Rare Earth went on for twenty minutes before the crowed started moving on the stage. They stopped and boarded a van that drove them to their dressing room with people trying to turn it over. The police brought in riot officers with shields and full riot gear. They came into our dressing room and approached Mandrill and basically told us we had to play. The crowd was screaming, Mandrill, Mandrill! and the police were trying to minimize the danger.
We went out and performed for thirty minutes before the crowed started making there way to the stage. The riot police had joined hands around the stage but when the crowd rushed the stage they left. People were all over the stage grabbing what ever they could and basically jammed with the band. We knew it was time to move out, a bottle had broken on my drums and up to my face hitting the boom. I performed barefooted and when the call was made to leave the stage my platform shoes were gone. I looked up and the band was in a limo driving to the dressing room. I was mauled by two girls that wanted my scarf the only problem with that was it was still attached to my neck. They choked me not realizing it was in a knot around my neck. I felt like Qunte' Keenta.
We all learned allot back then. Most groups stayed within their own circle because of the competitive edge we all had to maintain.
I knew all the bands from listening to their records and wanted to make a connection so I did.
I remember sitting up with Andrew and Al from Earth Wind and Fire when they still had a raw funk vibe to them. They too where new members at the time. We exchanged mutual respect for each others work as well as the tour goings on. E.W.F. had that love thing going on real strong and audiences ate it up.
I don't really consider them as a funk group though. Their more R&B. Back in the day they had a raw-funk element that was their own that's for sure. Their theme song "Power" was the bomb!!. Larry Dune on keyboards, with Philip Bailey on vocals, Andrew on sax, and Al on guitar was a great combo with the White brothers. No big horn section just Andrew playing in the pocket.
Kool In The Gang. They were Muslim back in the day.They came on stage wearing suits, playing their butts off showing very little expression. "Summer Madness" was to die for.
No lead singer which was great, mostly instrumental songs with a group party vocal. The trumpet player Larry Guitins and I were in the "Soul Sets" together.
I grew to love Funkadelic. I spent some real quality time with the brothers of funk. The lifestyle and their music are one in the same. Funkadelic made many sacrifices along the way.
They would all stay in one suite to save money. Mandrill flew to most dates and Funkadelic drove sometimes missing dates because there just wasn't enough time to get there.
The Funk's were as raw as raw could get. George went through his peeing on stage phase which caused allot of attention. Funkadelic had a hard time being accepted by Mandrill audiences.
Gary, Boogie, Eddie, Tiki, Bernie, Calvin, Grady, Fuzzy, and Ray, was the Funkadelic group I feel in love with. They overcame all the odds and wound up building an Army of fans.
I'm not sure what to make of the "All Star" concept. What I do know is the band "Funkadelic" from the seventies are true legends along with Bootsy and Big Foot who took the band to another level of record sales and landed the Mother Ship in the Hall Of Fame. The chemistry between the writing calibrations is what made the music so accepted.
I got to spend some time with Tiki Fulwood before he past away. We talked about doing an lp with the two of us battling our drumming styles in an animated W.W.F. kind of way.
He had bone cancer and it became too painful for him to play. The battle would have been something to hear.
Working with War was always interesting. The rivalry between them and Mandrill locked on quite a few occasions but kept both bands sharp because of it.
Mandrill's power was strong and we were really in a class by ourselves. That power made it hard for other groups to follow us. I love War don't get me wrong.
Their groove was street, slow, funky, and the harmonies were great. Again I say the band "War" was great.
I tuned on the TV recently and War was announced to be on BET. I ran to the TV. When I got there all I saw was Mr. Jordan. I remember saying, I thought it was War. The picture above is of the original War line-up. They are forced to call themselves SOB.
I could talk for hours on the movement but all stop here. Maybe I should write a book or something.
Any way the eighties came about and funk music had a hard time battling disco. Allot of funk acts gave-in and the revolution turned into rebellion between band members. Most bands had at least one person who thought their contribution to the band was more significant than the others. This caused a big problem and a lot of members wound up leaving their groups, members that had been around for years building up the names. All the OG members made the sound of their bands regardless of who wrote the song.
This really wounded the funk movement with almost all bands going through major changes. If that wasn't enough we still had to survive the disco eighties. The original sound was gone from most groups. There were no black bands in the nineties I think because there were no groups in the eighties. The art form was dyeing out. There were no bands to carry the art form to a new generation. A side from the original recorded music of the groups.
The legends were scattered. Some tiered from drugs, some like myself and Bernie Worrell trying to stay alive playing clean music.
Real music played by the legends vs sequencers had become a loosing battle. There simply was no market for funk groups mainly because of age, and a drug stereotype connected with funk legends.
Music in the 90s come out of a producers can and the public got accustom to that sound.
Most of us are trying to keep funk alive going into 20001. I think funk has to make a strong comeback to survive.
Europe has spawned a new generation that's totally into funk. Every one seems to be coming back for performance dates in and out of the country.
Some groups like P-Funk, and Mandrill just refused to give up with basically salt and pepper audiences supporting regular visits by the groups.
What's going to be interesting is to see is how many original members are in the lineups of old school groups when a Funk Fest. Reunion tour hits?
I believe legends owe young musicians the knowledge that they posses. They need to pass-on the funk art form. Funk is real and viable in today's music and must be preserved.
Funk legends need to standup, be counted, and plugged into some kind of music seminar program that puts them in a classroom situation with young musicians and singers.
I was young in the 70s but most legends are in their 50s-60s. Time is running out for most of them to teach new Funkatiers what they know.
Unlike jazz or rock funk is all feel and like I said in my theory it can not be learned from a book.