When Punk Got the Funk – PopMatters

Considering its rhythmic complexities and instrumental demands, at first glance funk music would appear to make for an unlikely partner for punk rock. Add its focus on the bass and drums, its mostly mid-to-slow tempos, and its African-American roots, and one might assume that the notion of punk-funk would amount to an attempt at one hybrid too far. Yet, this sub-genre not only flourished after the first outbursts of primary punk, but it has remained one of punk’s most sustainable lifelines, reinventing itself in many forms and fashions over subsequent decades.

In 1979, Lester Bangs wrote an essay for The Village Voice entitled “The White Noise Supremacists” in which he bemoaned punk’s disengagement from black culture. Not only did punk excise those musical elements prior white hipsters had once enthusiastically appropriated (blues, jazz, R&B, soul), but its occasional flirtations with Nazi imagery signaled outright opposition to non-white expression. No subculture was more dismissive of the disco and light funk music that dominated the charts in 1976, and the jazz-funk adventures of Pere Ubu, Ian Dury, and Talking Heads notwithstanding, most punk groups responded to mainstream black music by dismissing and disparaging it—then avoiding any signs of it.

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