In the late 70s and early 80s, it seemed that funk was everywhere you looked. Some of it was used to serve disco or dance music, some was hardcore funk, and some was called sophisticated funk. Sophisticated funk was associated with Quincy Jones and his productions for the Brothers Johnson; in some of the music being produced by Leon Sylvers III for SOLAR records, and other artists that released funky tunes but weren’t on the mothership with P-Funk.
Other people who made funky songs during that time were jazz musicians who switched over to do R&B and soul music. Among them were Herbie Hancock, George Duke and today’s artist, Patrice Rushen. Rushen began music classes while very young, and had a label deal with Prestige records by the age of 20. During that time, she worked with jazz saxophonist Joe Henderson, among many other jazz artists. She also became an in-demand session musician as well.
Once she signed with Elektra records, her sound started moving towards R&B. Many people know her song “Forget Me Nots”; if you don’t know it that way, you probably know it as the sample used for Will Smith’s “Men In Black.” “Forget Me Nots” was released on her biggest R&B album Straight From The Heart. Today’s track is from the album before it, called Posh. I chose her song “Never Gonna Give You Up” as the Funky Friday song of the week.
If you listen to nothing else, listen to that popping, slapping bassline from Freddie Washington. That is the funky spine to this tune. Everything else (horns and strings, Rushen’s keyboards, the conga player that is just going bananas) is just like the cherry on top of this sophisticated funk masterpiece. Rushen sings well enough, but the music is what makes this one funky. Sophisticated funk by nature wasn’t as hard as what James Brown brought to the table when he basically laid the foundation for the genre, nor was it as deep as what George Clinton and Bootsy Collins offered through the P-Funk empire.
I assure you though: this one and others like it made in this sub-genre of funk were just as good.
Take this one for a spin. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you have a great weekend!