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Best-Ever Funk Songs

Recommended Jams

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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. And during that time, there's been quite a few songs that have become not only legendary, but almost ubiquitous; you hear them on the radio, in commercials, on movie soundtracks, and even covered by other artists during concerts. There are so many great Funk hits that have been recorded over the years that it's hard to pick the absolute best, but here in no particular order are my picks for the best Funk songs of all time.

Atomic Dog, George Clinton

Why must I feel like that? Why must I chase the cat? This classic Funk masterpiece, which was on George Clinton's Computer Games album, is one of the catchiest and most sampled records in music history. The lyrics are beautifully nonsensical, and the beat is undeniably way ahead of it's time, even now, almost 30 years after it was recorded. Among the artists who have reused part of the beat on their own songs: Ice Cube, 2Pac and Snoop Dogg. Bow wow wow, yippe yo yippe yay.

Originally Released: 1982. From the Album: Computer Games.

Buy/download the song

More Bounce to the Ounce, Zapp

Although released in the 1980s, this song came back to life big-time in the 1990s thanks to heavy sampling by numerous rapper acts, including EPMD and the Notorious BIG. A little known fact about this jam is that not only did legendary Funk musician Bootsy Collins play guitar on the song, he co-produced it, too.

Originally Released: 1980. From the Album: Zapp.

Buy/download the song

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin), Sly & the Family Stone

This song's got one of the wickedest bass lines of all time, thanks to bassist Larry Graham, as well as one of the craziest titles. As far as why the title isn't spelled in traditional English (i.e. "Thank You For Lettin' Me By Myself"), the alternate spelling is meant to evoke the song's spirit of creative, emotional and spiritual freedom.

Originally Released: 1969. From the Album: Greatest Hits.

Buy/download song

Flash Light, Parliament

This is another song that has lived on thanks to heavily sampling by artists who grew up loving the tune, as well as appearances on movie soundtracks. Like many great Funk songs, the addictive beat is supplemented by completely meaningless - but highly fun to sing - lyrics. Everybody's got a little light under the sun, under the sun, under the sun ... .

Originally Released: Dec. 1977/Jan. 1978. From the AlbumFunkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome.

Buy/download the song

One Nation Under a Groove, Funkadelic

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." If only it were really that easy in real life.

Originally Released: 1978. From the Album: One Nation Under a Groove.

Buy/download the song

Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud, James Brown

This one of the rare Funk songs that has meaningful, message-filled lyrics. But it's undeniable that JB's black power anthem is also funkier than a hamper full of used gym socks.

Originally Released: 1968. From the Album: Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud.

Buy/download the song

Rock Steady, Aretha Franklin

"Rock Steady" is unfortunately the only song sung by a female on this list, but wow - what a female. The Queen of Soul didn't get funky that often back in her heyday, but when she did, she blew away the competition. This song's a reminder that a great vocalist can swing over any type of music, R&B, Funk, Country, classical, you name it.

Originally Released: 1971. From the Album: Young, Gifted and Black.

Buy/download the song

Super Freak, Rick James

Long before he was burning people with crack pipes and being parodied by Dave Chappelle, Rick James was one of unrban music's most creative minds. "Super Freak," which is about a very kinky guuuuuuurrrl, is his Funk masterpiece.

Originally Released: 1981. From the Album: Street Songs.

Buy/download the song

(Not Just) Knee Deep, Funkadelic

Fun fact: the album version of this track is almost 15-and-a-half minutes long. And not a moment of it is at all dull. Another fun fact: "(Not Just) Knee Deep" is one of four songs on this list that feature George Clinton as lead vocalist.

Originally Released: 1979. From the Album: Uncle Jam Wants You.

Buy/download the song

Get Up Offa That Thing, James Brown

James Brown may have been the Godfather of Soul, but he was also one of the founding fathers of Funk.And on this track, he commands you to shake you booty: Get up offa that thing and dance 'til you feel better, the Godfather sings, get up offa that thing and try to release that pressure.

Originally Released: 1976. From the Album: Get Up Offa That Thing.

Buy/download the song

Superstition, Stevie Wonder

Most people don't perceive Stevie Wonder as a Funk artist, and he's definitely much more of an R&B/Soul artist than a Funk one. But "Superstition," which he wrote, produced and performed when he was still in his early 20s, is most notable for the heavy use of synthesizers alongside the live drumming and guitar work.

Originally Released: 1972. From the Album: Talking Book.

Buy/download the song

Cissy Strut, The Meters

The Meters just might be the most-under-appreciated act on this list, mainly because most of their music over the years didn't feature vocals. But any true urban music historian fan can tell you that they are one of the most important Funk acts in history. You probably don't know "Cissy Strut" by name, but if you listen to the instrumental, it's likely that you're heard at least part of it at one point in time.

Originally Released: 1969. From the Album: The Meters.

Buy/download the song

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