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Essential Funk

By: Tony Green

Funk has been a euphemism for both stink and sex.But as pure musical expression, it means soul musicboiled down to the raw essentials, the grooves and riffsup front. Born in the late 1960s, its fusion of black-powerpride, R&B showmanship, and jazz chops has heldstrong for more than three decades–first as the soundof “urban” America’s disastrous ’70s, then as the root ofall ’90s hip-hop.

SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE STAND! (EPIC, 1969) SlyStone relocated James Brown’s new beats from theDeep South to Haight-Ashbury, picking up relatives inDetroit and Memphis along the way. “Everyday People”and “Sing a Simple Song” sport refrains pithyenough for elementary-school sing-alongs, whilethe starry-eyed “Stand” and the teary-eyed “Don’tCall Me Nigger, Whitey” hint at contradictions thateventually shattered Sly’s pop utopia. ALSO TRY:Funk Box (Hip-O, 2000), four CDs of party starters.