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Funky Friday: Lyle Lovett Proves Genre Only Means Something If You Let It

Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you “Penguins,” one of out-and-out funkiest songs ever laid down by someone generally classified as a country artist.

But if you took a country music fan – the Coors Light-drinking, NASCAR-watching, truck-driving, ATV riding type of country music fan – and asked him about Lyle Lovett, chances are he’d look at you like my dog does when he’s confused about what I’m asking him to do.

That’s because on the radar screen of your average “hot” country radio listener, Lovett isn’t even a blip. He’s too funny looking (real country stars are pretty-boy handsome with a rustic edge), he’s too bluesy (real country stars have twang galore and don’t use all those annoying horns and … what the hell is that – a cello?) and he sings about the wrong stuff (no songs about getting wasted on cheap beer from a Solo cup while partying in a field), etc.

Add to that the fact that some of his songs are actually funny, obviously taking an opportunity to tweak the country music stereotypes that remain so pervasive, and he seems tailor made to piss off typical country fans. Continue reading → Funky Friday: Lyle Lovett Proves Genre Only Means Something If You Let It

Funky Friday: Featuring Special Surprise Guest Star Christopher Walken

Musically or thematically, “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by C+C Music Factory wouldn’t be my first (or even fifth) Funky Friday pick for today, simply because it’s a somewhat generic example of late 1980s-early 1990s dance club rap fusion now more likely to be heard at weddings than anywhere else. It stood out at the time, but you, dear readers, can let me know in the comments how well you think it’s aged. Continue reading → Funky Friday: Featuring Special Surprise Guest Star Christopher Walken

Funky Friday: Andy Allo and The Mysterious Process of Character Inspiration

Andy Allo
A character who looks much like this coming soon to a forthcoming Scott B. Pruden novel near you.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Andy Allo – Prince protege and certified bringer of funk in the spirit of all the great multi-instrumental/multi-ethnic soul and funk bands that emerged from the late 1960s and early 1970s.

But why is Ms. Allo here today? Not simply because she smokes behind the mic and on the guitar, but because she’s become something of an inspiration.

Continue reading → Funky Friday: Andy Allo and The Mysterious Process of Character Inspiration

Funky Friday Writing Advice: Take What Someone Else Did and Make It Your Own

OK, now that you’re good and worn out from chair dancing, let’s talk about the Grammy Awards, where last Sunday, despite a truckload of radio play, Robin Thicke failed to get an award for his super-mega hit “Blurred Lines,” and instead laid the foundation for a future as a Las Vegas lounge act backed by the guys from Chicago (I’ll get to why I started you off with “Tighten Up” in a moment). Continue reading → Funky Friday Writing Advice: Take What Someone Else Did and Make It Your Own

For Today’s Funky Friday, The Fantastical Fusion of Sci-Fi & the Funk: Even in Space, the Booty Don’t Lie

082-WBITD_Parliament-MothershipC

Ever since the 1970s, science fiction and the funk have somehow emerged as two great tastes that taste great together.

I suppose we can credit George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic for the concept of the extraterrestrial visitors who descend to Earth to bring us some form of rump-shaking higher knowledge.

By introducing the Mothership and it’s garishly clad crew of funkateers, Clinton managed to combine the self-determination that arose from the civil rights movement of the 1960s with the idea that maybe something bigger was needed to bring about full acceptance of the African American culture that has informed every bit of American life since the 1600s.

Something like … a full-on alien invasion.

The concept of alien visitors bringing about some kind of funk epiphany was new, but somehow it caught on. The Mothership itself bootsy-collinsappeared in live P-Funk shows and the massive musical collective worked the extraterrestrial vibe to the hilt (everybody say, “Go Bootsy!“). Their rallying cry was, “Free your mind, and your ass will follow.” Well put.

It could have been a one-time thing had young Prince Rogers Nelson not set upon his own journey of funk/rock fusion and become the performer we now know only as Prince, who counted among his early influences Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Todd Rundgren and … Parliament-Funkadelic.

Prince seemed to bring everything along for the ride – space, pan-sexuality, end-of-days prophecy, visions of a post-apocalyptic utopia – all packaged in this surreal mix of pop, rock, funk and old-school R&B. When Prince broke big in the 1980s with 1999 and Purple Rain, it really did seem like he’d come from space like a late wave of the invasion that P-Funk initiated.

Plenty of old-timey “classic rock” guys turned up their noses, despite the scorching guitar solos and the obvious tribute to Jimi Hendrix, probably because it was hard for them to get past the fact that the Little Purple One was black.

Meanwhile those of us of a more sci-fi frame of mind more easily got a hold on what Prince was doing – pushing the envelope that had been shrunk ever smaller by obnixious, prefab arena rock and what was left of those trying to capitalize off the disco craze.

Since Prince curtailed his career and output, there have been few willing to step up and bring the sci-fi/funk connection back to the fore. Until now.

Janelle Monae seemed to emerge from much the same science fictional universe as Prince, and brings even more of that delightful future-funk to the world, especially in her videos. “Dance Apocalyptic” brings us the end of the world, complete with zombies, aliens and humanoid apes, but for purposes of today’s blog, it doesn’t really count as funk, per se. It’s still a damn fine song, and you should still give it a listen.

The best example of Monae’ sci-fi/funk fusion is the song – or more specifically the video – below. While the song isn’t science-fictional in itself, it does propose that the world is a better place when everyone’s being him or herself without worrying about the folks who never can quite get the hang of that.

The video, though, is based on the premise that Monae was the leader of a full-on cultural and social revolution, and that her organization has been frozen in suspended animation in a “living museum” for rebels and radicals – until they are once again unleashed.

Which brings us right back around to the P-Funk motto. Let the funk free your mind, and your ass will indeed follow.

A First-Time Funky Friday Request, Compliments of Catherine, Queen of the Tango

justin_timberlake_ticketsI’ve always had a up-down relationship what’s commonly called “blue-eyed soul” – which is really just a nicer way of saying “white boy soul.”

Todd Rundgren – yes. Hall and Oats, not so much. Mayer Hawthorne – yes. Justin Timberlake … well, let’s just say it took me a while to come around on that one.

JT had a lot of baggage (mousey, boy band and otherwise) to unload before I could give him full soul-man props, but he’s lately earned the title. It’s one that he could certainly hold on his own, even though he keeps casting around for a little help.

I’ve never been a huge Jay-Z fan, but it’s no surprise that Justin has to wear his affiliation with Mr. Carter to earn some teen and young-adult street cred. After all, the neo soul that JT now perpetrates would technically sit better with folks of an earlier generation without Jay-Z being glommed on there for broader demographic appeal.

Nonetheless, my awesome cousin Catherine sent me a message via Facebook today announcing this as her new favorite song and a worthy Funky Friday pick. And really, how could I refuse?

If Barry White doesn’t do it for you in the romantic slow-jam department, I’m sure this one might make a good substitute. I’m just going on record (as I must do with all Barry White and Sade songs) as saying that I take no responsibility for any babies manufactured during the consumption of this tune.

Enjoy!