If ever there was a music style that could wake the dead, funk is it. Not everyone feels the funk, but it’s easy to find out if you’ve got it; at 00.59 secs into Daddy Don’t Know About Sugar Bear, listen to that guitar, followed by Marva’s long screaaaaaaaaaaaam, or the heavy drum and bass combo in in I’m Losing You, Linda Divine’s ‘UGH!’ or just the thought of the delicious Ms Davis. If any of these things cause a tingling sensation in your pants, you’ve got the funk.
Then there’s the soul in these songs – deep and raw emotion, sung with a passion. These women may have had it tough, but their strength, spirit, sass and sexiness is superabundant. Who could resist Ann Peebles’ urge to break-up someone’s home, with desire oozing from that sultry voice? And Allen Toussaint’s masterpiece is turned into a hurting heartfelt plea to a lover; the pain of loss forcefully felt in Esther’s delivery of just three words ‘oh my love’.
I’ve added a well-known song performed by a contemporary Spanish funk soul outfit at the end. To hear this sung by a woman is so cool (I think Tina Turner is the only other female to record it) and it’s funky as hell!
1. Marva Whitney – Daddy Don’t Know About Sugar Bear
2. Lyn Varnado – Tell Me What’s Wrong With The Men
3. Gloria Walker – Papa’s Got The Wagon
4. Lyn Collins – Take Me Just As I Am
5. Ann Sexton – You’re Losing Me
6. Ann Peebles – I Feel Like Breaking Up Someone’s Home
7. Esther Phillips – From A Whisper To A Scream
8. Millie Jackson – The Blues Don’t Get Tired Of Me
9. Delores Ealy – It’s About Time I Made A Change
10. Delilah Moore - Ooh Wee Baby
11. Sweet Linda Divine – I’ll Say It Again
12. Hard Drivers ft. Vivian Lee – Since I Was A Little Girl
13. Gloria Walker – Don’t Get Funky
14. Betty Davis – No Good At Falling In Love
15. Freedonia – Under My Thumb
Funk and hard times? Weep to the beat! I’ll do strut to rut tunes some other time because these songs – sometimes angry and sometimes full of hopeful yearning – tell the story of the way things were and, sadly and incredibly, the way things still are. These are mostly songs about complex characters born into an intricate and difficult heritage; people trying to forge a better life as best they can. The music itself is rich, inventive and vibrant. It’s no wonder that the era when soul and funk overlapped remains so vital for today’s music.
1. Baby Huey and the Baby Sitters – Hard Times
2. Sam Dees – Heritage of a Black Man
3. Gil Scott-Heron – Who’ll Pay Reparations on My Soul?
4. Walter Heath – You Know You’re Wrong
5. Valentine Brothers – Money’s Too Tight To Mention
6. Darrow Fletcher – Improve
7. The Isley Brothers – Fight the Power, Pts 1 & 2
8. The O’Jays – Rich Get Richer
9. Betty Davis – Steppin’ in Her I Miller Shoes
10. Marlena Shaw – Woman of the Ghetto
11. Joe Bataan – Johnny
12. Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes – Wake Up Everybody
13. Lonnie Liston Smith – Expansions