Listen to this track, a funk workout by groove-oriented soul-funk collective Rose Royce. It’s ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is’ as taken from the soundtrack album of the 1976 film Car Wash.
This tune has all of the hallmarks of classic funk; a groove-centric appeal, made to dance to, and with the voices of the musicians talking with each other as the song moves along. It’s all here. For me, it’s the sound of celebration, with something of an off-the-cuff kind of feel about it. Its interlocked rhythm driven by a deliciously sweaty bassline, percussive guitar, and tasty horn shots still sounds like it’s been made up on the spot. And that’s part of what makes it so charming.
This song comes out of an era when the idea of black subculture meeting the mainstream was a pretty new idea. It’s something we take for granted now, of course. But, it’s important to remember that the civil rights movement was less than fifteen years behind the release date of this tune, and the movie in which it is featured.
If the characters in the film are more stereotypical then our modern sensibilities might be used to, then it’s because the movie was scripted by someone outside of the community it depicts – one Joel Schumacher who would later make a name for himself as a director. And it’s marked by growing pains, with Hollywood attempting to branch out to brand new audiences by making films that feature the types of characters with whom those communities can more easily identify.
It should be noted that the soundtrack to the Car Wash movie had a more lasting impact than the film, produced as it was by legendary Motown impresario Norman Whitfield who produced the Temptations and Gladys Knight and the Pips, among others. Rose Royce of course would have a smash hit in the title track to this soundtrack, among other hits like ‘Wishing on a Star’ and other songs that stand as a sort of middle ground between the influence of southern soul music of the first half of the decade and the smoother, and more ubiquitous disco of the second half.
For more about the Car Wash movie, check out the IMDB entry.