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Funk for Friday: Eddie Kendricks, “Keep on Truckin'”

Not a Grateful Dead song–that’s just “Truckin’.” Not your typical city involved in a typical daydream. But it’s interesting to think about the willingness of this song, of an R&B singer, to engage with the whole hippie/freak thing…

Eddie Kendricks, “Keep on Truckin'”—originally on his self-titled 1973 album

But is it a hippie/freak thing? The Dead’s “Truckin'” has had so much airplay over the years that it sort of owns the word (in its shortened n’ form). (But remind me to post the speed-freak version of it by the Bay Area punk band, Pop-o-Pies.) And the origins of the title phrase also suggest that hippie/freak connection—it had been popularized a few years before this song came out in a pretty famous underground hippie comic, in an illustration by R. Crumb (above):

Keep on Truckin’ (comics): “Keep on Truckin'” is a one-page comic by Robert Crumb. It was published in the first issue of Zap Comix in 1968. A visual riff on the lyrics of the Blind Boy Fuller song “Truckin’ My Blues Away”, it consists of an assortment of men, drawn in Crumb’s distinctive style, strutting confidently across various landscapes. The strip’s drawings became iconic images of optimism during the hippie era. Like most underground comics, “Keep on Truckin'” was not copyrighted, and images of it have been widely reproduced on T-shirts, posters, and other items. (via Wikipedia.)

But maybe despite all of that, the phrase “Keep on truckin'” had a wider currency during the 70s than I recall, and was used equally by hippies and hipsters… Whether or not this is a song with a hippie engagement—a freak meets funk kind of thing—it certainly has a nice funky groove, at times reminiscent of The Jackson 5, which makes sense since it was coming out of the same Motown hit machine.

It’s also got a transitional sound, moving from the Motown R&B sound of the late 60s/early 70s to the disco sound of the later 70s. Compare this song with the other Kendricks tune I posted a little while back, “My People… Hold On,” from just a year earlier. While I like “Keep on Truckin’,” I think this comparison shows that the move to a more disco sound didn’t do Kendricks any favors.  That earlier song is a minor masterpiece; this one is just good, and Kendricks never got any better in his subsequent disco numbers. Still, it was a huge hit when it came out, Kendricks’ first real hit as a solo artist since leaving The Temptations, of which he was one of the founders.

The most prominent freak meets funk moment was almost certainly Sly & The Family Stone, who were featured in last week’s “Funk for Friday.” I’ve also written about Funkadelic’s engagement with a style of psychedelic rock that was definitely more associated with white boys. All of this is of interest for the ways in which black music—music by African Americans and coming out of the African American community—and white music have interacted in the United States, coming together, moving apart, borrowing/ stealing/ learning from each other, but for the most part retaining somewhat separate identities. Separate Billboard charts. Separate radio stations. In an earlier time, “race records.” Separate communities of listeners. Lots more to say on this topic, obviously…

For more…

Filed under: Song of the Day, , , , , ,

Funk for Friday: Funkadelic, “Maggot Brain”

In previous music posts, I’ve brought up the issue of black music and white artists a number of times. It’s very complicated, and I want to talk about it directly in more detail at some point, but right now I just want to lay some guitar on you:

Funkadelic, “Maggot Brain” – from the album Maggot Brain (1971)

An awesome, withering, spooky/spacey, drug-addled trip down the rabbit hole from a classic 70s funk band… This song blew my mind when I heard it a couple of years ago.  I had no idea what I was listening to – though I did recall hearing it back in the day.  Who the hell is this, I thought?

Funkadelic was the second joint from George Clinton, after his doo wop band The Parliaments, but actually predates the now better know Parliament. A funk band, obviously, like Parliament, but deeply engaged in very direct ways with aspects of rock, specifically with 1970s psychedelic rock. This is a different kind of Detroit sound, one that makes me want to know more about the context that spawned it.  The only major band that is remotely like this is the Bay Area’s own Sly and the Family Stone.  Who are awesome.

So it’s black artists and white music this time, rather than the other way ’round.  But really what it points to is how phony these distinctions are, overall, more to do with marketing – and the messed-up state of race relations in the USA – than music.  Still, with the occasional exception like Lenny Kravitz or Fishbone, it seems far more common these days to find white boys rapping than black kids rocking. Which is a shame.

This track isn’t funky, so posting it as “funk for friday” is a bit of cheat. But it does melt your face off. Which is one way to begin your weekend.  Hmmm – where did I leave my drugs?

For more…

Filed under: Song of the Day, , ,

Song of the Day: Parliament, “Chocolate City”

Time for some p-funk…

“God bless Chocolate City, and its vanilla suburbs…”

Parliament, “Chocolate City” (1975) – from the album Chocolate City

One of my favorite tracks from George Clinton‘s original band…

Parliament was originally The Parliaments, a doo-wop vocal group based at a Plainfield, New Jersey barber shop. The group was formed in the late 1950s and included George Clinton, Ray Davis, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, and Grady Thomas. Clinton was the group leader and manager. The group finally had a hit single in 1967 with “(I Wanna) Testify” on Revilot Records (via Wikipedia.)

Where it is…

Filed under: Song of the Day, , ,

Song of the Day: “You’re No Good”

It’s not that hard to see why there’s been a simmering level of dissatisfaction with and criticism of the appropriation of black music by white musicians in the United States…

You’re No Good” is a song written by Clint Ballard, Jr. which first charted for Betty Everett in 1963 and in 1975 was a #1 hit for Linda Ronstadt. (via Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Betty Everett, “You’re No Good” – from Beg, Scream & Shout!: The Big Ol’ Box Of 60’s Soul

Compare Everett’s soulful original with Linda Ronstadt’s version—a big hit when I was a kid and which I still remember vividly (listen here or here). Ronstadt is great and she tears it up—you can see why it was a huge hit for her, and it makes a great rock ballad. But I’ll take Everett’s version over it any day. That horn section and then that twangy guitar coming in, Everett’s soulful phrasing—it’s just more striking and original, for me, than the Ronstadt version.

So why is it Ronstadt’s version that was such a huge hit, and has stuck, while Everett has largely dropped off the radar?

Here’s Everett’s biggest hit, just to give you a sense of how great she was:“The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in his Kiss)”. Girl groups—those were the days.

There is, at least, a little justice: Cher‘s cover of this Everett song was not a hit for her. I do appreciate the old school backup singers, but Cher just does it too big—she’s such a drama queen—and loses what is great about the song (and whose idea were those strings?).

For more…

Filed under: Song of the Day, , , ,

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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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Upcoming Bay Area Films of Interest

  • Vertigo (w lecture) at BAMPFA February 22, 2017 at 3:10 pm – 4:10 pm BAMPFA
  • Bitter Victory (Ray) at BAMPFA February 25, 2017 at 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2155 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
  • One-Eyed Jacks at BAMPFA February 25, 2017 at 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm BAMPFA
The 400 Blows

zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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