Funk Rock is a genre composed of aspects of both Rock and Funk music that gained popularity in the 1970’s, especially in the United States. The band ‘The Upsetters’ are widely attributed as being the first Funk Rock band, being described as beginning the transition from the Rock sound of the 1950’s to the Funk sound of the 1960’s, thus creating the fusion of music. Jimi Hendrix is also classed as being one of the acts that brought the genre to acclaim, and the genre achieved an increase in popularity in the 1990’s with such bands as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine emerging. Some bands went further still, as to include aspects of other musical genres such as Hip-Hop, Punk and Metal into the Funk Rock genre, thus creating another subgenre, Funk Metal.
Bass Guitar is a crucial element to Funk Rock, as Funk largely relies on a groove rhythm and an interesting bassline. Much more work went into writing basslines with styles of Funk music than with other genres. For example, typically in Pop music, the bass note will simply be the Root note of the chord that is being played at the time, e.g if a C Major chord is played, a C note will be played in the bass line. But with Funk and some other genres, a wandering bassline (a bassline that moves through different notes, typically within a scale) is common, as it creates a sense of a ‘groove,’ and provides a richer, more melodic texture. Drums are featured, sometimes as an actual drum kit, or sometimes a drum machine, depending on whether a more electronic sound is desired. Vocals, electric guitar and keyboards are also commonly featured.
The differentiation between the separate genres and Funk Rock is down to the beats and rhythms on the bass guitar and drums, and also down to the electric guitar; a distortion is typically incorporated, creating either a ‘fuzz’ or an ‘overdrive’ sound, and the guitar is usually more intense in its tone than within straightforward Rock music, thus giving it prominence in the song alongside the Bass Guitar.
Lyrically, Funk Rock songs are diverse. The nature of the songs is usually upbeat, usually as a result of the positive feel created by the grooves of the bass guitar and the subsequent guitar melodies. However, challenging themes can be covered, especially in those songs leaning to the Punk side of the spectrum; unemployment and loss or Government control feature, though romance and general life situations are also common.
Funk Rock is a really standout genre, due to it being both incredibly catchy in nature, but also composed of very sophisticated rhythms and melodies. It is both danceable and intelligent at the same time, with a distinctive sound that can be enjoyed by all.