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Motown and Funk

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Chris McInnes

on 9 October 2018

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Transcript of Motown and Funk

Key Personnel
Berry Gordy
The Motown Sound
KISS - Keep it simple, stupid
Structure - simple, often start with the chorus
Lots of 'sweetening' - strings, horns , orchestral percussion
Focus on vocals
Big hooks and choruses, but some complex melodic/harmonic movement
Complex basslines - James Jamerson
The Motown beat - snare on every crotchet
Lyrics always about love/relationships
Stevie Wonder
Early success with Motown (youngest artist to ever have a number 1 pop/r&b hit)
Lyricist - Dealt with spirituality, politics, addiction
Musician/Producer - Multi-instrumentalist, brought synths into soul ('Tonto's Expanding Headband'). Extensive harmonic complexity.
Singer - incredible range and level of expression
Key works:
Talking Book (1972), Innervisions (1973) Songs In The Key Of Life (1976)
Marvin Gaye (1939-1984)
Senior Motown figure, helped tutor younger artists as well as playing and writing
Major personal crisis when Tammi Terrell died after a battle with ill health
Re-negotiated his Motown contract for creative control to make a complete album along the same themes - recorded in 10 days
Gordy refused to release 'What's Going On' at first (1970) - too political for radio
George Clinton
Bootsy Collins
Large bands - horns, synths, vocals
Importance of bass - slapping, popping
Long tracks -
grooves not songs
Complex syncopation between parts
Funk/Disco Crossover
Early Pioneers
Formed 1959, finally sold in 1988
1960 - 1969 they had 79 top ten hits
Factory approach with Gordy in charge of everything
Unique approach to artist development
Most successful independent label of all time
Little harmonic movement...
Rhythm - 'Hit the one!'
... but chords are often complex
2nd most sampled artist:
Most sampled artist:
1980s -
Afrika Bambaataa
Massive funk influence via sampling
James Brown
Sly & The Family Stone
Earth, Wind & Fire
Adoption of Funk by Soul/R&B Artists
Massed vocal chants
Funk Goes Electro
Key work begins when he re-negotiates his contract and gains creative freedom
'Heard It Through The Grapevine' - 1968 was first number 1
Gaye went on strike until it was released in 1971 - sold 2 million copies
1973 - 'Let's Get It On' - huge influence on later genres such as quiet storm/neo soul
Death - shot and killed by his father in 1984
Full transcript