37 Best Funk Songs Ever

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“Pick up the Pieces” by Average White Band

Song year: 1974.

“Pick up the Pieces” demonstrates the power and danceability of the funk genre. Critics and music lovers instantly took a liking to it, even though most of the song is instrumental, with the occasional shout of the title.

Even without many lyrics, the song still holds meaning. Average White Band says the title refers to every time they've had to pick themselves up when feeling down.

“Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus feat. Chaka Khan

Song year: 1974

Stevie Wonder wrote this best-selling funk song for Rufus and Chaka Khan. It was a pioneer for the genre, being among the first hit singles to utilize a talk box for the guitar, shaping its frequency content.

Some fans were surprised that Wonder gave the song to other artists, as he could have had another hight-charting single for himself.

“Superfly” by Curtis Mayfield

Song year: 1971

Curtis Mayfield's Superfly comes off the motion picture soundtrack album for Super Fly, a blaxploitation film in the neo-noir crime genre. The funk accompanies the classic storyline very well, and the tune peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 after the movie's release.

“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” by Sly and the Family Stone

Song year: 1969

The psychedelic funk band Sly and the Family Stone released “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” in 1969, and by 1970, it had topped the Billboard charts. The lyrics reference the band's greatest successes, including their most well-received songs like “Sing a Simple Song” and “Everyday People.”

Rolling Stone included the tune in their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, along with several other funk songs from the same era.

“Lady Marmalade” by LaBelle

Song year: 1974

Labelle released the funky song “Lady Marmalade” on her album Patti & Labelle, Lady Marmalade. The song is still one of the best funk songs ever, and '70s lovers will sing the opening verses while cheering on their sisters. Film buffs may recognize it from Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge.

“The Payback” by James Brown

Song year: 1973

Funk legend James Brown revised Fred Wesley's lyrics to produce “The Payback,” a song meant for the 1973 film Hell Up in Harlem. However, the producers rejected the song because it was too similar to the rest of James Brown's discography. Still, it lives in infamy in the funk genre.

“It's Your Thing” by the Isley Brothers

Song year: 1977

The Isley Brothers released “It's Your Thing” as a jab at the head of their former record label, Berry Gordy. Although the psychedelic funk song is upbeat and danceable, the lyrics attack Gordy for having a suffocating hold on his artists.

Ronald Isley wrote the song after picking his daughter up from school, saying that the rhythm and lyrics simply appeared in his head after their move to the United Kingdom. It peaked at number two on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

“Give It to Me Baby” by Rick James

Song year: 1981

Rick James killed the funk scene with his album Street Songs which featured three songs that had a place at the top of the U.S. Billboard dance charts. “Give It to Me Baby” is among them, also peaking at number 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Fans of the video game Grand Theft Auto might recognize the tune from the game's 2013 release.

“Cissy Strut” by the Meters

Song year: 1969.

The Meters released “Cissy Strut” on their self-titled debut album to highlight funk instrumentals, making them one of the pioneer artists of the genre.

The song is three minutes long and entirely instrumental, featuring Zigaboo Modeliste on the drums, George Porter Jr. on the bass, Leo Nocentelli as the guitarist, and Art Neville on the keyboard.

“Genius of Love” by Tom Tom Club

Song year: 1981

The Tom Tom Club released “Genius of Love” on their self-titled debut album, and funk fans fell head over heels. The song climbed to the top of the Billboard Disco charts, and iconic artists like Mariah Carey and Latto would sample the tune. Several television shows and films, like South Park, also include this danceable jam.

“Got To Give It Up, Part 1” by Marvin Gaye

Song year: 1977.

The singer-producer Art Stewart wrote the song “Got To Give It Up, Part 1” for artist Marvin Gaye. Gaye's label, Tamla, requested that Gaye release a disco song to keep up with the decade's musical trends.

The song hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 immediately after its release, as well as two more Billboard charts. Gaye's first stab at disco proved to be a success, and he even used it as the opening number for many of his concerts.

“War” by Low Rider

Song year: 1999

Low Rider worked with record producer Jeffrey Goldstein to write “War,” a song that most TV fans will recognize. It is the theme song for the beloved sitcom George Lopez, which ran late at night from 2002 to 2007. The tune played over a montage of the show's stars jumping into the air, posing in slow motion.

“In My House” by Mary Jane Girls

Song year: 1985

Rick James was a mentor for the Mary Jane Girls, so he wrote the band this funk song in 1989. The song is a warm welcome into the girls' homes, inviting men who want to spend quality time. It conveys a sweet, comely tone yet a good beat, earning the girls a spot on the top of the dance charts.

Top Funk Songs, Final Thoughts

The funk genre has led to some of the greatest hits of all time, as evidenced by how many have ended up on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of all Time.

More than that, many of the best funk songs by notorious artists like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye have become prevalent social artifacts that have shaped the music industry and still make people dance.

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