Forget ‘Uptown Funk’: Four fantastic funk alternatives

Uptown Funk
Image credit: YouTube

No one can deny that 'Uptown Funk' is unequivocally a great tune. Indeed, it seems that 'Uptown Funk' fever has seized Cambridge. As the song maintains its slot at number one in the UK charts for the fifth week in a row, I'm hearing it everwhere: blaring in Lola's, hummed under a Chaplain's breath, playing from a phone in the JCR. As a funk fanatic, I'm all for this fabulous state of affairs. However, many of my Cambridge contemporaries seem completely unaware of funk's long and glorious history, instead assuming that Ronson and Mars invented a new genre. So here are four classic funk tunes for an alternative fix.

 

‘Higher Ground’ – Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder is a great place to start if you're looking to fuel your funky fever. With a solid background as a trailblazer of Motown, Wonder's ability to create catchy rhythms and memorable hooks is second to none. 'Higher Ground' is a great example of this – Wonder wrote the song from scratch and recorded it all within the space of three hours, but listening to its polished production, you'd never guess. The song features on the 1973 album Innervisions (which, by the way, is full of funky songs if one Wonder-ful tune isn't enough).

You can't be sad and listen to funk - fact. Credit: The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

 

‘Cut The Cake’ – Average White Band

But funk is not just the preserve of America – the UK also has its fair share of funk talent. Average White Band (or AWB, if you want to sound like you're a true funk fan) are a brilliant example. This Scottish group repeatedly topped the charts in the 1970s due to their infectious disco-funk sound. From their 1975 album of the same name, this track 'Cut The Cake' encapsulates what AWB do best: infectious horn riffs, throbbing basslines and a serious groove. On top of all that, the lyrics are brimming with hilarious cake-related innuendo, for example "cut the cake, give me a little piece, let me lick up the cream". Mmmm funky.

You can see the funk on his face - AWB live. Credit: Johan Broberg

 

‘Cold Sweat’ – James Brown

It wouldn't be right to make a list of funk tunes without including a song by James Brown. As well as being wellknown as 'the Godfather of Soul', Brown is also, without a doubt, one of the founding fathers of funk. 'Cold Sweat' marks his transition from old school R&B to funk, and is arguably the first funk song that he wrote. Brown's vocal energy and a brilliant saxophone solo make this tune for me. I'm just surprised that it's not more widely known.

The world was so much funkier when we all listened on vinyl. Credit: Daniel Hartwig

 

‘Chameleon’ – Herbie Hancock

For a truly immersive funk experience, nothing beats this classic tune from one of the best pianists of the last century. With the full version (found on the 1973 album Head Hunters) running for over 15 minutes, you can let the groove soak into your bones and wiggle to your heart's content. However, a warning for the wise: if you thought 'Uptown Funk' was catchy, you may need to seek medical help to remove the 'Chameleon' earworm once you've let it in. Don't say I didn't warn you. 

Herbie Hancock funkin' out on stage while playing 'Chameleon'. Credit: Marco Fedele

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