Best-Ever Funk Songs

George Clinton, Parliament-Funkadelic, and James Brown Dominate The List

From it's stylistic origins in the 1950s, to its electrification in the early 1980s, to it's rebirth during the '90s, Funk has been a part of America's urban music landscape for over half a century. Numerous funk songs have become legendary, through radio, television commercials, movie soundtracks, and being  covered by other artists. Of the many great Funk hits, here is a list of the "Best-Ever Funk Songs."

1982 - "Atomic Dog" by George Clinton

George Clinton. GAB Archive/Redferns

Why must I feel like that? Why must I chase the cat?...Bow wow wow, yippe yo yippe yay: Unforgettable lyrics from the 1982 George Clinton classic, "Atomic Dog."

Clinton hit number one on the Billboard R&B chart for the first time as a solo artist in 1982 with "Atomic Dog" from his debut solo album, Computer Games. The classic has been sampled dozens of times, including songs by Prince, The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac ShakurDr. Dre, Nas, Aaliyah. Ice Cube, and Snoop Dogg.

1980 - "More Bounce to the Ounce" by Zapp

Roger Troutman from Zapp. Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Released in 1980 as the debut single from the group Zapp led by Roger Troutman, "More Bounce To The Ounce" became popular again a decade later due to heavy sampling by numerous rap acts, including EPMD and the Notorious BIG. This was one of the first hits to utilize a "talk box" which modifies the sound of a musical instrument by singing through a microphone. Bootsy Collins co-produced the song which reached number two on the Billboard R&B chart.

1969 - "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" by Sly & the Family Stone

Sylvester Stewart of Sly and the Family Stone. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

From Sly & the Family Stone's 1970 Greatest Hits album, "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" was the group's second single to reach the top of both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. It was the number one R&B song for five weeks. The song features the ingenious  bass line created by the legendary Larry Graham.

1978 - "Flash Light" by Parliament

Parliament-Funkadelic. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

From Parliament's 1977 Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome album, "Flashlight" reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart. It was their second million selling single. This is another timeless funk classic which has endured through generations due to constant sampling.

1978 - "One Nation Under a Groove" by Funkadelic

George Clinton. Echoes/Redfern

Grooving your way to freedom is the theme of this song, as evidenced by George Clinton's lyrics: Here's my chance to dance my way out of my constrictions. The title song of Funkadelic's 1978 One Nation Under A Groove album became the group's first number one hit on the Billboard R&B chart. It was the group's first million selling single. 

1968 - "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" by James Brown

James Brown. Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Released in August 1968, four months following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" became an anthem of the civil rights movement. It remained at number one for six weeks on the Billboard R&B chart and symbolized James Brown's reverence as "Soul Brother Number One." It was his first recording to feature trombonist Fred Wesley.

1971 - "Rock Steady" by Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin. Anthony Barboza/Getty Images

The Queen of Soul proved she knew how to funk with "Rock Steady." From Aretha Franklin's 1972 Young, Gifted and Black album, "Rock Steady" became her twelfth gold single. Franklin composed the song which featured Donny Hathaway on piano.

1981 - "Super Freak" by Rick James

Rick James. RB/Redferns

From the 1981 triple platinum Street Songs album, "Super Freak." became Rick James' signature tune. It reached number one on the Billboard Dance chart, featuring background vocals by The Temptations. Nine years later, it became the basis for MC Hammer's iconic hit "U Can't Touch This," and James won a Grammy for Best R&B Song in 1991 as its composer.

1979 - "(Not Just) Knee Deep," by Funkadelic

Parliament-Funkadelic. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

George Clinton earned his nickname "Dr. Funkenstein" by composing  producing funk classics such as "(Not Just) Knee Deep" by Funkadelic. It became the group's second number one hit on the Billboard R&B chart. The original version on the Uncle Jam Wants You album is a funkafied 15 minutes long.

1976 - "Get Up Offa That Thing" by James Brown

James Brown. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, was also the Godfather of Funk. This song is a remedy for anyone suffering from nervous tension, as he sings, Get up offa that thing and dance 'til you feel better, get up offa that thing and try to release that pressure.

Brown released "Get Up Offa that Thing" in 1976 as a two-part single. It reached number four on the R&B chart and was his biggest hit during the mid to late 1970s. 

1972 - "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Stevie Wonder is not known as a Funk artist, but he proved he knows how to get down and groove with his 1972 classic, "Superstition. Wonder composed, produced and recorded "Superstition" when he was 22 years old, creating a new sound with his innovative use of synthesizers, live drumming and guitar work.

Wonder received two Grammy Awards for "Superstition" from his 1972 album, Talking Book. He won Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male and Best Rhythm and Blues Song. "Superstition" was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts.

1973 - "Jungle Boogie" by Kool and the Gang

Kool and the Gang. Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

From Kool and the Gang's fourth album, Wild and Peaceful in 1973, "Jungle Boogie" was the band's breakthrough hit, reaching number two on the Billboard R&B chart, and number four on the Hot 100. Billboard ranked it as the number 12 song of 1974. "Jungle Boogie" has been sampled numerous times, including in The Beastie Boys' "Hey Ladies" (1989), Madonna's "Erotica" (1992), and Janet Jackson's "You Want This" (1994). The song was also featured in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.

Edited by Ken Simmons on March 27, 2016

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Nero, Mark Edward. "Best-Ever Funk Songs." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/best-funk-songs-2851240. Nero, Mark Edward. (2017, March 3). Best-Ever Funk Songs. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-funk-songs-2851240 Nero, Mark Edward. "Best-Ever Funk Songs." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-funk-songs-2851240 (accessed November 18, 2017).