I’m pretty sure a few of you know about the funk. James Brown. Parliament and the previously mentioned Funkadelic, from the mind of George Clinton. Sly & The Family Stone. The Ohio Players. Almost any R&B band from Ohio. On and on and on. There was a time in the 1970s where you couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a funk band. Of course, they all had about fifteen members in the group, what with a drummer, a bass guitarist, a keyboard player, rhythm and lead guitarists, and a kick-ass horn section. Every funk band in those days had to have a bad bass player and a great horn section. The rules, you know. Then in the early 80s, those bands started losing members as horn sections, bass players and drummers were dropped in favor of electronics and synthesizers.
Enough intro. Let’s get into it, shall we? If you have seen the movie Superbad, you might be familiar with today’s song. If you need a refresher, here’s a snippet of the opening credits:
In case you don’t remember, that is “Too Hot To Stop” by the Bar-Kays. I wrote a bit about them before on the blog, when I discussed what I feel might be the funkiest song in their catalog, “Holy Ghost.” You can run over there and check that one out if you like, I won’t mind. While I might think “Holy Ghost” is the best song by them, this one ranks right up there with it.
If you aren’t familiar with the story of the Bar-Kays, here’s the short version. The group was working at Stax Records as a junior version of Booker T. & The MG’s when they released their first hit record, “Soul Finger” in 1967. Later that year, they were backing Otis Redding on tour when most of the band and Redding perished in a plane crash. Original member James Alexander re-formed the group with new members, and they began working with Isaac Hayes while making their own music. After Stax Records went under in the mid-70s, the group signed with Mercury Records where they cut the album Too Hot To Stop. Today’s song is the title track and the second single from the album, which went to the top 10 of the R&B charts in 1976.
The Bar-Kays enjoyed a number of hits in a similar style for the next few years, until they cut down their eight-person band down to three members in the mid-80s. Gone was the horn section that drove so many of their funk hits in favor of the electronics. But fans of the funk will tell you that those jams they cut once they left Stax in the 70s were some of the best of the style.
Happy Friday, everyone! As always, thanks for reading and listening.