The Best Funk Music Classics You Need to Know

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


What is funk music? Funk is a style of danceable, rhythm and blues-based music that originated in the mid-1960s. Funk songs are often characterized by their syncopated groove and their use of funk-based bass lines.

If you’re looking to get into funk music, there are some classics you need to know. Here are 10 of the best funk songs of all time.

Introduction to Funk Music

Funk is a style of danceable music that was popularized in the mid-1960s. It is characterized by a strong, repetitive bassline and often includes elements of soul, R&B, and rock. The best funk songs are often the ones that make you want to get up and move. Here are some of the best funk classics that you need to know.

What is Funk Music?

Funk is a music genre that originated in the late 1960s when African American musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul music, jazz, and rhythm and blues (R&B). Funk de-emphasizes melody and harmony and brings a strong rhythmic groove of electric bass and drums to the foreground.

Funk songs are often based on an extended groove that stresses the anchor notes of the verse-chorus sections established by the percussion. This groove is then elaborated with guitar, keyboards, horns, and vocals. The lyrics often center on themes of pride, love, social justice, and spirituality.

The term “funk” can be traced back to James Brown’s 1967 hit “Cold Sweat.” Brown’s funky style influenced many subsequent musicians, including George Clinton, who founded the bands Parliament and Funkadelic. Clinton’s brand of funk was more psychedelic, with longer jams and distorted guitars.

Other important funk artists include Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang, Parliament-Funkadelic offshoot Bootsy Collins, Deee-Lite, 1990s legends Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone and Lenny Kravitz.

The Origins of Funk Music

Funk is a music genre that originated in the mid-1960s when African American musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul music, jazz, and rhythm and blues (R&B). Funk de-emphasizes melody and harmony and brings a strong rhythmic groove of electric bass and drums to the foreground.

The word funk initially referred to a strong, pungent odor. This meaning was later adapted to describe a style of danceable African American popular music that arose in the mid-1960s. George Clinton’s bands Parliament and Funkadelic—collectively known as P-Funk—are widely considered innovators of the genre.

Funk’s earliest influences came from Jazz musicians such as Miles Davis who experimented with electric instruments and funky rhythms in his band’s performances and recordings, such as the 1968 album Bitches Brew. James Brown’s 1966 hit “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” is often cited as an early example of the genre; it introduced the use of electric bass guitars, drums, and horns to create a more driving sound.

Other important early contributors to the funk sound were Sly & The Family Stone, whose work combined elements of soul, R&B, rock, and psychedelia; Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers, who helped pioneer go-go; and Kool & The Gang, whose mix of R&B, jazz, soul, pop, and Rock would prove highly influential. In the 1970s, funk continued to evolve with contributions from artists such as Africa Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force (whose 1982 song “Planet Rock” helped pave the way for electro-funk), Parliament-Funkadelic (whose 1976 album Mothership Connection featured futurist sounds and themes), Bootsy Collins (a former member of Parliament-Funkadelic whose own solo work increased the prominence of slap bass), Prince (whose output would help make Minneapolis sound one of funk’s major hotspots), Rick James (whose brand of “punk funk” would dominate urban contemporary radio in the late ’70s and early ’80s), Zapp (whose synthesizer-heavy grooves would help define electro-funk), George Clinton’s side project Funkadelic (whose 1979 album One Nation Under A Groove helped return slimmer arrangements to favor), sideline projects by Earth Wind & Fire members Maurice White and Phillip Bailey (such as The Emotions and Bailey’s 1979 hit “The Heavens Can Wait”), Cameo (who blended R&B with new wave sounds on their 1986 album Word Up!), Deee-Lite (“Groove Is In The Heart”), Arrested Development (“People Everyday”), Red Hot Chili Peppers (“Give It Away”), OutKast (“Hey Ya!”),  and many more.

The Best Funk Music Classics

Funk is a style of music that was popular in the 1970s. It is a mix of African American music and Brazilian music. Funk is a very rhythmic style of music and is known for its groovy feel. Some of the best funk songs are “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5, and “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” by James Brown.

James Brown – “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”

“Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” is a song written and recorded by James Brown. Released in 1965, it was his seventh single to reach the top of the Billboard R&B charts, where it stayed for six weeks, and pop charts, peaking at number eight. It won Brown his first Grammy Award for Best R&B Recording. Thesong is notable for being one of the first funk hits. Its introduction features one of the earliest uses of a drum machine in popular music.

Sly and the Family Stone – “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”

Sly and the Family Stone’s album “Stand!” is one of the most funk-filled albums ever made, and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” is its most funk-filled track. The song features some of the tightest musicianship you’ll ever hear, with each member of the band playing off each other perfectly. The result is a groove that’s impossible to resist.

Parliament-Funkadelic – “Flash Light”

“Flash Light” is a song by Parliament-Funkadelic, released as a single in 1977 on Casablanca Records. The song became one of the most popular and well-known tunes in the P-Funk canon, and topped the R&B singles chart for four weeks. It was also successful on the dance charts, reaching number two. The song features a distinctive bass line by Bootsy Collins, who has described it as “the key to funk”.

George Clinton – “Atomic Dog”

“Atomic Dog” is a song by George Clinton from the 1982 album Computer Games. The track was released as a single in December 1982 and became his most successful single, reaching number one on the US Dance chart and number 56 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song has been sampled numerous times, most notably by Snoop Dogg for his 1993 hit “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?”.

Bootsy Collins – “The Pinocchio Theory”

“The Pinocchio Theory” is a song by American funk musician Bootsy Collins. The song was released as a single in 1976, and was included on his debut album, The One Giveth, the Two Taketh Away.

The song is based on the fairy tale of Pinocchio, and tells the story of a boy who tells lies and then has his nose grow as a result. Collins uses the story to make a point about the power of positive thinking, and how lying to oneself can lead to negative consequences.

The song was a hit on the disco charts, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. It has since been widely considered to be one of the classic songs of the genre, and has been covered by a number of artists including George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Living Colour, and Mary J. Blige.


In conclusion, if you want to get into funk music, there are a few key tracks and artists that you should know about. These tracks and artists represent the best of what the genre has to offer, and they are sure to get you hooked on funk music for life. So, what are you waiting for? Start exploring the world of funk today!

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