To say that the bass guitar played a big role in the evolution of funk is an understatement. Perhaps the first great funk bassline ever put on record can be found in this featured song. Which is not to say that there weren’t great basslines before, or great bass players before Larry Graham basically invented the slap-pop (or as he called it, “thumpin’ and pluckin'”) style.
A few of the great bass players of the 1960s include the names Donald “Duck” Dunn (Booker T. & The MG’s), Bernard Odum (James Brown’s mid-60s band); and James Jamerson (too many Motown sessions to count). They all had songs during the decade where the bass figured as an integral part of songs, but there was nothing like what was coming out of the speakers when this song came out.
Along with “Hot Fun In The Summertime,” this song was to be released as part of a new album, but it ended up on the band’s Greatest Hits instead. Released just as the 1960s were beginning to turn into the 1970s, and as part of a double A-side with “Everybody Is A Star” (also included on Greatest Hits), “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” was a huge hit for Sly & The Family Stone. It was a #1 smash on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B charts. It also was the last anyone would hear from the group until “Family Affair” was released late in 1971. The bright, upbeat tone of many of the group’s hits had disappeared into something darker and heavier.
But as far as Funky Friday purposes go, it’s all about that bass. Graham’s technique influenced a wide range of players in its wake. Any bass player in any funk band of note—think Aaron Mills of Cameo, Louis Johnson of the Brothers Johnson, Mark Adams of Slave, Bernard Edwards of Chic, and Bootsy Collins of Parliament/Funkadelic as well as his time playing behind James Brown, among many others—owe a debt to Graham. So do jazz/funk bassists like Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten. Graham himself would leave Sly & The Family Stone in 1972, and would go on to form his own band, Graham Central Station, where he deepened his version of funk with his bass pyrotechnics.
I hope you enjoy this “building block” of funk for Friday. As always, thanks for reading and listening.