Hello all! You are right on time for a special “themed” version of Funky Friday, aka the Funkiest Trip in America. With today’s guest stars: B.T. Express! The Miracles! People’s Choice! The BlackByrds! Herbie Hancock! The Bar-Kays! Bohannon! And the Funky Friday dancers (some of y’all are going to have to fill in; there was no money in my budget to get some of the Soul Train dancers-or for that matter even the ones from American Bandstand).
The theme of this special Funky Friday goodness? Doing It. Now, get your minds out of the gutters, folks. Apparently, the 1970s was the “Do It” decade. If songs didn’t have the phrase “Do It,” or “Doin’ It,” it would prove to be lacking in funkiness. (That’s not really true, I just made it up). Apologies are given to Van McCoy, whose song “The Hustle” started off with the phrase “Do It”! Apologies also are given to KC & The Sunshine Band, whose single “I Like To Do It” missed the cut this time around.
So here we go…straight out of Brooklyn, New York I give you B.T. Express, with their #1 debut single from 1974, “Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied). This is sure to get Funky Friday off to a very good start! “Go on and do it/do it/do it ’til you’re satisfied/whatever it is….” Beware around the 2:10 mark; it appears someone fell asleep at the organ for a bit.
Next up, we have The Miracles! Not to be confused with Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. See, Smokey decided he needed a break from the group he helped create and also served as their primary songwriter. The break lasted for about a year, when it was announced that Smokey would be a solo artist. I’m sure his former bandmates were thrilled to hear that. Anyway, they carried on with Billy Griffin in the Smokey role, and turned out this pimptastic-sounding song called “Do It Baby.” It would prove to be the second-biggest hit the new Miracles would have, after 1975’s “Love Machine.” Yes, this one was done on Motown Records…a far cry from what we know as the “Motown Sound,” yes?
Now we have Philadelphia International’s contribution to Funky Friday’s Just Do It. Produced by label founders Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, and written by Huff, the People’s Choice gave us the 1975 dance classic “Do It Anyway You Wanna.” Huff apparently wasn’t much on lyrics on this one; the title phrase is practically all there is. Who need lyrics when “Do It” is the main point of the song?
Next up is Howard University’s own BlackByrds. Formed at “the Black Harvard” and mentored by trumpet great Donald Byrd, the group were consistent hitmakers throughout the 1970s. This song may actually be about “doing it,” but I daresay you probably couldn’t do it in the location that forms the title of the song. At least not in broad daylight anyway. This one is called “Rock Creek Park.” If you thought the lyrics for People’s Choice were simple, try this out for size:
Doing it in the park, doing it after dark/oh yeah/in Rock Creek Park/oh yeah/in Rock Creek Park (done countless times)
You want an exact number of times they say it? Count them yourself! I’ll be grooving.
Jazz and fusion great Herbie Hancock transitioned nicely from playing with Miles Davis to having his own solo career that began in the late 1960s. By 1976, he was one of the biggest artists in jazz fusion, and he began incorporating larger doses of funk in his songs. Today’s contribution, co-written with Ray Parker Jr. and Melvin Ragin along with Hancock, also marks the first time (at least I think it’s the first time) that Hancock provided his own vocals on one of his songs. Of course, he sang them through a vocoder. What did he sing? “Doin’ It,” which is the name of this song. Again, simple lyrics. This was several years before he hit the mainstream with “Rockit.”
The Bar-Kays also got in on this trend with “Let’s Have Some Fun.” The key section of this funk hit: “Do what you want to/Do it everyone/Do what you want to/Let’s Have Some Fun/OW!” There are actual lyrics to this one, but I can’t be bothered to recite any of them. Just want to mention: this was the funk band version of the Bar-Kays; by the 1980s they too would shrink in membership as synthisizers and drum machines took over for horns and bass players and drummers. Oh yeah: get funky with it!
Finally, to wrap this up, it’s Hamilton Bohannon with “Let’s Start The Dance.” This is a favorite of my mom’s! The “doing it” in this song apparently refers to dancing. No matter: when Bohannon and band are cooking like this, who cares what is being said by him or Carolyn Crawford, the female vocalist who takes over the track. There were plenty of folks who couldn’t sit still when this was a big hit in 1978.
One other thing these songs all have in common: there’s plenty of funk in each one, though in different styles. At this point in time, funk was broad enough to encompass a lot of variations.
Whatever you want to do today, just do it! Hopefully these songs inspire you to do it, whatever “it” is. Have a great Friday, and I thank you for reading and listening.