Funky Four: Pursuing Happiness
Words By Andy DeVilbiss
Time to celebrate living in America, baby! Independence Day. To think that all those years ago a cocky pilot and bespectacled egghead figured out how to blow up... that mothership, saving us from those alien hordes. God bless you, Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Ok, it didn't quite go down like that.
In Philadelphia, the city that would later boo Santa Claus, 56 dudes in wigs and capri pants spent days yelling at each other 235 years ago. Arguing about freedom, taxes, and blood. Weighing liberty against hard realities both internal (the first substantial northern “Ew! You guys have slaves! Stop having slaves!” scolding in an argument that would last the following 85 years) and external (England will probably open “Ye Olde Canne of Whup-Asse” upon us). They came to an agreement and signed the Declaration of Independence... eventually. Later many of these same Founding Fathers fought over the Articles Of Confederation. Next the Constitution, which officially extended the right to be an argumentative loudmouth to every American, not just the politicians drafting these documents.
It's a right I cherish. One I probably exercise WAY too often and one that I will exercise here on the eve of America's celebration of independence. Like the Founding Fathers, I support the “pursuit of happiness.” Here are four funky things that would make me happy, and perhaps make the USA better for us all.
1. Stop With The Autotune Already
All the computer filters in the world can't mask horrid beats and a lack of talent. It was somewhat interesting when it started, but now I can't go to a bar without hearing some robotic screeching coming from a jukebox. I'm hoping I might be able to turn on the radio in my car in a few years. And you know who you sound like autotune-user? Everyone else who has used autotune. Technological wizardry does not supersede quality. But if you're going the technology route, would you rather use autotune, an audio safety net first tested on Cher and replicated as an iPhone app? Or would you rather rapidly flee from anything Cher-related and take a page from Frampton Comes Alive and Zapp and use the talkbox, which produces similar sounds but, y'know, with a soul. As you might gather from the Juno What?! video above, the correct answer is talkbox. Although, really the best piece of advice I can give most autotune abusers is, simply, just write better songs. Please.
2. Appoint the “Chocolate City” Cabinet
Admit it, funkateers. During the sweeping historical moment of President Obama's election night, for a split second you thought “Well he's not Ali, but maybe Stevie Wonder COULD be Secretary of the Arts...” No? Just me then. Do it as part of a nationally declared Funk Holiday, although, even with the dead weight of Zombie Richard Pryor, the “Chocolate City” Cabinet might do the job just as well.
3. Give Larry Graham Some Damn Respect
My pal Josh touched on this in advance of Bootsy Collins's show in New York City. Everybody seems to LOVE George Porter, Jr. and turns out in droves to see him, yet there didn't seem to be the same enthusiastic love for Bootsy. Maybe it's because George is fairly active in our scene specifically. Maybe it's because of his NOLA vibe. I'll agree with Josh's premise concerning Bootsy and go a bit further. The funk bass-lord who never gets enough due relative to what he brought to the genre is Larry Graham. As I understand things, Larry is a pretty humble, spiritual dude. So allow me to issue the following open letter on his behalf:
You know that whole slapping and popping the bass with the the thumb thing? That thing that guys like Victor Wooten and Les Claypool and quite a few others you'll see at festivals around the country will be doing on their basses? I INVENTED THAT SHIT.
Larry Graham, Jr.
4. Honorary U.S. Citizenship to the New Mastersounds
The Mastersounds are now Jam Cruise stalwarts and staples on the summer festival scene here in the States, and they play The Funk better than a lot of Americans. Guitarist Eddie Roberts has already moved to Oakland, CA, and their forthcoming album, Breaks From The Border, was the first time they recorded entirely on our side of the pond. When you combine all of that with their love-letter concert to New Orleans, the cradle of American music, as documented in their film Coals To Newcastle (which needs a DVD release SOON), it's obvious these blokes kinda want to be here. So make it easy for them. Consider it a conciliatory gesture towards England for that whole revolution business.
Happy Fourth of July, y'all. Pursue some happiness this weekend and may you reach the Fifth of July with your livers and your limbs (for those of you who are explosively-minded) in tact.