Here’s a clip of one of the Founding Fathers of Funk, Maceo Parker and his band All the King’s Men with their 1970 funk workout “Funky Women”. The song comes from the album Doing Their Own Thing.
One of the things that top drawer funk musicians do very well is take the attention off of their own individual skill, and shift it to what the band as a whole is creating in the moment. And they do this in a few ways, it seems to me.
First, the emphasis is on the groove, which is simply the nature of the beast; everything interlocks and interrelates to achieve this end. Second, they keep everything simple by having equally straightforward goals, namely to get people on the floor and get them moving. There is no funk if there is no sweat, after all. And third, even if each band member is named and invited to solo, the ultimate objective is to contribute to what has been offered by the one who’s played his bit before. And fourth, the band lets the audience in on what is being created as it’s happening, sometimes even letting them know where the music is going to go (‘Let’s we hit it and quit it! ‘We gonna give the drummer some?’).
“Funky Women” does all of this, and has the additional benefit of being really, really playful, and very sexy too. We get some fine playing from all involved, each band member having gone through James Brown’s school of hard knocks where they were fined for mistakes among other punishments. Yet, this isn’t workmanlike playing – it’s pure joy, pure excitement, pure funk, with each instrumental solo delivered with a woman’s voice in mind. The lilting trumpet is the voice of the breezy, talkative girl. The deep tenor sax is the voice of the sultry man eater in the red dress. And Maceo’s own alto sax the short and sassy party girl.
All the while, Maceo is the master of ceremonies, the spinner of the tale, the setter of the scene, inviting his guys to imagine a humid evening playing a club in a roomful of appreciative, and vibrant women, who are to be looked upon not as mere decorations in the scene, but the very lifeblood of it, the living reasons for making music in the first place – to see them dance, to see them laugh, to draw them closer. I just love this tune, an ode to the beauty of women and a reminder of how closely music and dance is tied to other physical yearnings. And “Funky Women” is ultimately about acknowledging how great it is to be alive, as a physical being.
A close friend and collaborator with James Brown during his mid-to-late 60s period, Maceo Parker is of course a figure of authority in his own right, having made albums of notable consistency together with Brown, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and Prince, as well as on his own, even if his profile isn’t quite as high as some of these artists. Parker’s handle on funk, soul, and even jazz remains undiminished, active as he is as a touring performer and recording artist today.
For more music, check out the Maceo Parker official site.
And for more information, read this interview with Maceo Parker.