Women who can sing the FUNK…
There is a world of difference between being a good soul singer and a good funk singer. Mariah Carey, for example, is a good sweet soul singer, but if she were to suddenly start grunting into the mic and demanding snare kicks from the drummer, her people would rush the stage within seconds to drag her off to the mad house. Presumed breakdown. She hasn’t got the funk. Sadly, neither have many of today’s fine young singers, with the possible exceptions of Beth Ditto, Mary J, Beyonce and that’s about it. Even the greatest soul singer of them all, Aretha Franklin, doesn’t quite have the funk chops to be a BOLD SOUL SISTER. Our top four female funk sensations read like this…
1. Betty Davis
One part of possibly the greatest model/musical genius combo of them all, Betty was the great Mile Davis’ second wife. Back then, in the 1960s, she was just a sexy young model who was friends with Hendrix and Sly Stone, then in the 1970s she emerged as a funk/rock force of nature, with a trio of albums brimming with sexual aggression. An amazing woman, and our top female funk singer.
2. Tina Turner
Before she became Tina Turner with the feathery Rod Stewart hair, and the enormously popular soft rock ballads, Tina Turner was a funk goddess – touring the world with angry, punchy Ike and the magnificent Ikettes. What really marks her out are her excellent dance moves, and a growling voice that sounds like Cathy Beale after a big night on the cigs.
3. Marva Whitney
Featured before as one of our favourite Underrated Soul Stars, Whitney’s piercing, raw voice was the perfect match for James Brown’s band, The JB’s. Alongside other female funk greats like Lyn Collins and Vicki Anderson – both of whom just missed out on a place in the top four – she became a part of the gigantic James Brown family in the 1960s, although she only managed one solo studio album – It’s My Thing, from 1969. Great record.
4. Mary Jane Hooper
Not much is known of this funky Mary Jane Hooper woman. What we do know is that her real name was Sena Fletcher, she had gritty vocal talent that really floated the magnificent Eddie Bo‘s onions, and she churned out about three bona fide funk classics in the 1960s. We also know that she’s our fourth favourite female funk singer.
Apparently this guy died… or something
No doubt the next seven or eight months are going to be taken up with newspapers really trying to figure out a few Jackson mysteries. How did he die? Did he really monkey around with those kids? Did he actually do it with a woman to make babies? All questions that we can’t answer, so we won’t be wasting your time by even remotely trying. When it comes to Jackson, we know two things: 1. Waking up with the man must, even just for a nanosecond, have given you a glimpse into what it’s like to be Ronald McDonald’s wife. And 2. These are the four best cover versions of MJ classics…
1. Billie Jean, Shinehead
A slower version of the classic song about a deranged stalker, this one even features a big doff of the cap to spaghetti westerns. A brilliant reggae track. Just brilliant.
2. Thriller, Ian Brown
Ian Brown has never had the most syrupy voice in the world, but his drawling monotone somehow works when singing Thriller. An unexpected masterpiece.
3. Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough, Derrick Laro and Trinity
Another reggae interpretation of a Jackson classic – this time Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough from Off The Wall. This very nearly, but not quite, improves on the original. Excellent.
4. Human Nature, Miles Davies
A few rock versions almost took fourth spot, but in the end we plumped for this Miles Davis trumpet version of Human Nature. Not because it’s particularly good, but because it’s Miles Davis doing Michael Jackson. Yes, Miles Davis doing Michael Jackson. That’s Miles Davis doing Michael Jackson. The legendary trumpeter Miles Davis doing Michael Jackson…
Michael McDonald, What a Fool Believes
Had a gargantuan stroke not done him in almost twenty years ago, Miles Davis would be turning a very jazzy 82 today. And how appropriate that his birthday would fall on a Tuesday, being that it has been declared the official day of cardigans, eyebrow twisting, and sweet brassy jazz sounds. By us. Anyway, we decided that dead or not, we were getting the guy a gift, so we put on some sweatbands and shouted at one another through the din of a squash club, before it boiled down to a toss up between some sexy leather underpants, or a clip of Michael McDonald – a singer with great hair and a voice like a beautiful deaf man. In the end we got him both. Happy Birthday Miles Davis!
Miles Davis Quintet, Footprints
Now that kindly Mr Sunshine and his wife, Mrs Sunshine, have decided that it’s okay to come out, we’ve made a similar decision to seize jazz music from the shadows. Today, Miles Davis dazzles us with his fantastic trumpet.
Hey kids, look, a cartoon!
The thorn that has jutted from the bloodied side of Jazz music from around the 1950s onwards, stopping anyone from feeling its true beauty, is that it always seems to take itself so damn seriously. Album covers would either show moody John Coltrane figures lurking in the shadows smoking a cig, or artwork so far out that people would burst into confused tears just looking at it (Mile Davis’ excellent Bitches Brew). Of course, the kind of pipe smoking women who love Jazz wouldn’t have it any other way, but in around 1976, trumpeter Donald Byrd created this totally accessible masterstroke, and the music on his Caricatures record proved to be as cheeky and enticing as the cover. A pure white sleeve, it features a zany cartoon of Byrd himself, complete with big old afro and beard, blowing hard into his trumpet – his way of saying, “come on world, Jazz music is FUN!”. And guess what – it worked. For about eight minutes.
Listen to one of the tracks from the album after the jump.