Sass, Ass and Class



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

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38 thoughts on “Sass, Ass and Class

  1. Oh, goodie, another outing from fuelemena! *reaches for headphones*, trips, realises need for cordless ones to dance round room with….

    • As well as the GSH, I think the songs by Betty Davis, Sam Dees, Millie Jackson and Freedonia might have enough of a rock and blues sound for you. From those it’s only a short step to finding the funk in you. ;-)

      • Yep, love the Sam Dees (very ‘bluesy’), also enjoyed Millie Jackson, not so much on the Freedonia though.

        Cheers fuel.

  2. Great playlists, thanks for those, loads of highlights. I think my top three Betty Davis songs would be If I’m in luck.., Shut off the light, and Dedicated to the press, but anything she did was pure class.

    I assume you’re both also familiar with the many faces of Eddie Bo… David Robinson’s I’m a carpenter Pt. 1 just one example. There’s a fine compilation of rare 45′s called In the pocket with Eddie Bo.

    Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd. St. Band Do your thing also come to mind hearing the Isleys, a bit rawer but definitely one of the founding funk bands.

      • Don’t have Spotify, but I think you mean the ‘Splash’ from Water Babies and I see the link with the off-beat drum and bass. The other version from Circle In The Round is slightly different isn’t it? Great tune whichever version.

      • Right, that’s the one… I think the Circle in the round version is just edited slightly. It’s something about the two-chord, boogaloo feel and the rhythm section. Miles didn’t do much in that style, I suspect he was casting around a bit at the time for inspiration.
        In funk terms some of his later seventies work- particularly Black Satin from On the corner, and in a far-out sense Agharta- also hit the spot.

      • Sorry – I seem to be replying to my own post here rather than yours. Anyway. Years since I listened to ‘Splash’ – just going on memory really.
        Black Satin is glorious – though last time I listened, hadn’t a clue who was playing and what instrument they were playing on. Oh except for some bells somewhere!
        I’ll make time to listen to these 2 again today. Thanks.

      • I think to this day none of the musicians who played on the On the corner sessions are 100% sure who made what sound… Paul Buckmaster reckoned some of the segments apparently played by Miles were actually his amped bass led through a wah-wah, there were many overdubs with various percussion and electronic effects.
        Agharta is a difficult listen and an enormous chunk of music to get through but it has become my favourite post-1970 Miles performance, it seems to smash jazz’s entire history up to that point against blues and funk, and establish an entirely new genre in one afternoon.

    • Great recommendations and observations. With this playlist I’m really hanging on to Wilemena’s coattails and somebody like ejaydee would do this so much better, but it’s great to trawl through my CDs again and rediscover these sounds.

      I had a very long playlist for this, but edited it down so that the songs told some sort of narrative, even then I still had to cut 12 tracks away to get it under an hour. One of the twelve was indeed Do Your Thing. But my final choice was between Charles Wright’s Express Yourself and LLS’s Expansions. LLS won out because it was a better fit with the narrative theme in my head.

      Oh! I’ve just checked the library and there’s a copy of In the Pocket at the library, so I’m going there on Monday. Here’s another nice link between our last post and this:

      • You can hang on to my coattails whenever you want fuelburning. I’ll even let you have a peek underneath.

        btw – perfectly succinct intro and perfectly matched tunes. Will have a proper listen later x

      • Expansions is great… so funky and light footed. It occurs to me that revivalist acid jazzers Down to the bone basically lifted that bassline complete for Muesli Brown, but the track doesn’t really compare well to Expansions. In fact very few of those nineties/naughties groups- the Giles Peterson clique- really compare that well with the seventies originals, I had high hopes for a while but looking back there’s very little from that era I still cherish. Better to go through the back catalogues of Blue Note and CTI, or the Mizell produced Donald Byrd abums… Grant Green’s Sookie, Sookie or Ain’t it funky now are also perfect junctions of jazz, funk, and R&B; Herbie Hancock’s Thrust a spaced out slab of jazz-funk fusion.
        Though of late I’ve been really impressed with Snarky Puppy, which will be one of my festive ‘Spill picks and possibly an upcoming earworm.

      • Just had a listen to Something by Snarky Puppy. Normally, I’d turn off when someone starts that wordless vocal expression that Lalah Hathaway is doing in Family Dinner but it fits so well because, for me, she’s trying to express something she can’t put into words. Really good. Now listening to I’ll Do Me, the track with Jayna Brown, which would be great in the middle of Wilemena’s set but I think I’m not the One is my favourite so far. Malika Tirolien! Hot!

        Agharta sounds like something I would really enjoy – another I can borrow from the library on Monday. Thanks for those.

      • We saw SP here in November, just the instrumental band, absolutely awesome. I meant to mention the family dinner series as I thought it might hit the spot, it’s had rave reviews. I’m blissing out to Ground Up at the moment, their last instrumental cd/dvd most of which is viewable on Youtube.

    • It was very good fun to put together. There’s a mass of better known stuff we didn’t use like Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, The Last Poets, War, Tower of Power, Sly Stone, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins & Co, Chuck Brown, AWB, The Temptations, Donny Hathaway… Maybe some other time.

      I also have a Really Grim Soul Uneasy Listening Playlist, which I might inflict on you all someday. Not that mine playlist was easy listening if you paid close attention to the lyrics.

      • the lyrics in yours where intense at times – I admit I had to stop playing them (and come back later) because I was distracted. Very powerful stuff in parts.

        And wile’s had a a few with a quirk that I find really hard to listen to – it’s song writers who refer to their lovers or partners as ‘Daddy’ – I just can’t listen – the songs talking about their Papas/Daddies whom spawned them is just fine – but it creeps me out when it’s about a lover – it really comes out in that 70′s era. The stunningly brilliant Betty Davis does it and I was listening to Mark Lanegan and he was doing a ‘come to daddy thing’ from the male angle – *shiver* – and I believe it’s Aphex Twin that’s made me think along those lines.

        Yes, I do analyse lyrics too much.

      • Yeah that Aphex Twin can twist your thoughts alright (you with boobs comes to mind hee hee).
        I have to ask myself: If Mark Lanagan said ‘come to daddy’ to me, would I like it? And the answer has to be yes. And Isobel singing ‘ooh daddy’ I find very sexy.

      • Well! I’m uncomfortable with the use of the word ‘Daddy’ but that’s more because it brings to mind Scum, a vicious beating and “I’m the daddy now”. Sort of killed the use of the word daddy for me.

        Oh and there’s also Hellraiser, which an ex liked to watch. Now that was wrong…


      • Well that’s not the worst violent scene in the film – the words ‘potting shed’ make me shudder more than the word ‘daddy’. I don’t mind that scene and in fact think the violence was necessary given the circumstances.

  3. A really great post from the two of you again ! ! !

    There is an active funk scene in Japan and it is a popular genre, but I had not heard many of these tracks before. Thank you for posting them all.

    My favourite active funk band is Zainichi Funk – do you know them ? ? ?

    • Hi Sakura,

      I do know them as you’ve recommended them before.But I’d actually forgotten about them and am grateful for the reminder. Actually, I remembered them instantly because the singer is so distinctive. Excellent song, I love the way it just shifts the beats after three minutes.

    • Hi Sakura. That has got me moving and grooving. Brilliant guitar work. Crazy towards the end. Ace!
      Do you know Osaka Monaurail? Marva Whitney toured with them for a good while in her later years and produced an album with them, which I have.
      Here’s a tune of theirs – href=”″>Quick Sand – very James Brown influenced as their name implies.

  4. Fantastic tunes here and as the great George Clinton would say :

    If you got faults, defects or shortcomings,
    You know, like arthritis, rheumatism or migraines,
    Whatever part of your body it is,
    I want you to lay it on your PC, let the vibes flow through.
    Funk not only moves, it can re-move, dig?

    • Hi LIAB

      Add your songs to the media library by uploading the last song in your playlist first; essentially you upload in reverse order.

      Use the cursor to indicate where you want your tunes in the body of your post.

      Then click on Playlist Editor on the left of the screen. That will bring up a list of all the tunes in the ‘Spill’s library.

      Click Add for the tracks you want.

      Scroll down to the bottom of the Playlist Editor page where it says Insert Playlist into Post and click. You’ll be taken to the latest draft of your page.

      Use preview to check that ithe playlist has really gone where you wanted

      Repeat the process for a second playlist. If you’re adding a second playlist you might have to reclick the add buttton of the first playlist to stop it reloading them as well. (That tech wasn’t perfect the first time I added a second playlist.)

      To remove the MP3s and free up ‘Spill space you have to delete them from the library; you can’t just trash an old post that nobody gives a toss about anymore as the content of your post is not the same as the ‘Spill’s library.

      I think I’ve deleted all my old posts and library material that I had when I used Amy Lee’s account. Thank you Amy Lee.

  5. Well enjoying the O’Jays number – their bassist was (is?) clearly very skilled! That’s only the second one of theirs I’ve heard, “Money” being the first. Something of a recurring theme there…

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