Best Funk Songs Ever

The funk genre came about in the 1960s, and pop culture has not been the same since. After its creation in the African American community, it hit mainstream by the early ’70s. It blossomed alongside the disco genre, often working in tandem with soul and R&B.

Now, let’s look at the best funk songs of all time.

“Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry

Song year: 1976

Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music” is a staple of the funk genre. The song is one of the most iconic, funkiest songs from the ’70s and has a fun anecdote behind it. One of the band’s members, Ron Beitle, wrote the song in 15 minutes after a fan approached him at a show and asked, “Are you going to play some funky music, white boys?”

The lyrics describe how difficult it was for a rock band to break into the funk genre in the ’70s when disco was rising, and audience members wanted groovy, danceable tunes.

“Give up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” by Parliament

Song year: 1976

George Clinton founded Parliament in the ’60s to bring a fun sense of storytelling and sci-fi influences to the funk genre. Their song “Give up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” became their first million-selling single, with a danceable, sing-along chorus that fans love.

The notorious tune comes off their album Mothership Connection and kicks off with bass vocals by Ray Davis, a founding band member. The composition includes jazz elements with three main themes and two sub-themes that occur throughout the song.

“Funky Town” by Lipps, Inc.

Song year: 1979

Lipps, Inc. struck gold with “Funky Town,” a 1979 single from their debut album Mouth to Mouth. Steven Greenberg wrote the lyrics about the band’s desire to move to Minneapolis, with lead singer Cynthia Johnson on vocals.

The song instantly received international acclaim, with critics and casual listeners claiming it as one of their favorite songs. It stayed at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for nearly four weeks, peaking at number one in multiple countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands.

“Flash Light” by Parliament

Song year: 1977

The band Parliament released “Flash Light” in 1978, and it peaked at 16 on the U.S. Billboard pop charts. However, it reached number one on the R&B charts, making it the first P-Funk song to earn that place.

It stayed on the charts for four months, quickly becoming an essential part of pop culture. Fans can hear the funky tune in films like Muppets from Space, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, The Heat, and Straight Outta Compton.

“Super Freak” by Rick James

Song year: 1981

Rick James produced, wrote, and recorded the hit song “Super Freak.” The single is about a sexually adventurous girl who may not be the best partner for a man to take home to his parents.

Funk fans around the globe took an immediate liking to the song, with its highest spot on an international chart being number two in the Netherlands. The tune became one of James’ most well-known works, and artists like MC Hammer and Nicki Minaj sampled the funky beat.

“Chameleon” by Herbie Hancock

Song year: 1973

Herbie Hancock, Paul Jackson, Harvey Mason, and Bennie Maupin worked together to write, produce, and record the jazz-funk song “Chameleon.” The full-length version of the tune has an unprecedented length of 15 minutes and 44 seconds for a funk song, which is standard for its jazz roots. The song peaked at number 42 on the Billboard Hot 100 and 18 the hot soul singles.

“More Bounce to the Ounce, Part 1” by ZAPP

Song year: 1980

“More Bounce to the Ounce, Part 1” comes from Zapp’s self-titled debut album, Zapp. The electro-funk song repeats the phrase in the title and features a few praises to a sexy woman getting down to the beat on the dance floor.

Roger Troutman, the group’s leader, is responsible for the vocals and many instrumentals, giving him the experience he needed before starting his solo career.

The tune peaked at number 86 on the Billboard Hot 100 the year of its release, which helped launch Zapp into their successful career. 

“Get Down on It” by Kool and the Gang

Song year: 1981

Kool and the Gang’s 1981 single “Get Down on it” comes off their iconic album Something Special. The Recording Industry Association of America certified the funk single as gold or a “Disco de Oro.”

The Australian artist Peter Andre released his version of the song in 1996 on his album Natural. The British pop group Blue also recorded a revision of the tune, and many artists sampled the funky beat.

“Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” by James Brown

Song year: 1965

James Brown wrote and released “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” as a two-part funk single in 1965. The soul-funk song represents a milestone in James Brown’s career, as it won him his first Grammy.

It took home the Best Rhythm and Blues Title award, marking the start of Brown’s journey into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Rolling Stone gave the song a spot at 72 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

“She’s a Bad Mama Jama (She’s Built, She’s Stacked)” by Carl Carlton

Song year: 1981

Leon Haywood wrote the song “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” for the artist Carl Carlton and is now one of the artist’s most identifiable works alongside “Everlasting Love.”

The song peaked at number two on Billboard’s Soul Singles chart and received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance. It is a certified gold single by the Recording Industry Association of America.

“Word Up” by Cameo

Song year: 1986

Cameo recorded “Word Up” in 1986 and released it on their album of the same name, Word Up! It quickly became Cameo’s most recognizable song, airing on the radio and in dance clubs internationally.

The music video contributed to the band’s success, too. It is known for a funny bit where famous actor LeVar Burton plays a police officer who arrests the band.

“One Nation Under a Groove” by Funkadelic

Song year: 1978

Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under a Groove” shares a name with the title of the band’s most commercially successful album. The electronic-punk song differed from Funkaledic’s usual sound when they released it.

Rather than standard rock elements, it had a more danceable beat that fit the funk trends. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gave the song a spot in the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

“You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate

Song year: 1975

Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing” has become a significant cultural artifact, making crowds dance every time it plays in public. The band’s lead singer Errol Brown wrote the song with Tony Wilson, and they released it on their self-titled album.

Several films use the song in their soundtrack, including Legally Blonde, What Happens in Vegas, and The Monty.

“Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder

Song year: 1974

“Higher Ground” is a funk song from the famed and prolific Stevie Wonder’s album Innervisions. The song is an impressive feat of the genre, especially considering that Wonder wrote and recorded it in a total of three hours when inspiration struck hard in 1973.

Stevie Wonder capitalizes on his musical genius abilities with this track, playing every single instrument in addition to vocals. The dedication earned him the number four spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Hot R&B Singles chart.

“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder

Song year: 1972

Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” came about when he found himself messing around in the studio one day. He released it on Talking Book to start a conversation about the consequences of giving some superstitions any power.

The tune peaked at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, which Wonder had held many times before. He won two Grammys for it, Best Rhythm and Blues Song and Best R&B Vocal Performance.”

“Jungle Boogie” by Kool and the Gang

Song year: 1973

Kool and the Gang released the funk song “Jungle Boogie” on their album Wild and Peaceful. It quickly became a nightclub classic through the ’70s and ’80s and still plays at funk and disco nights.

The band’s frontman does not perform the lead vocals–In fact, their roadie Don Boyce sings the song. The composition includes “jungle-like” elements, including a Tarzan-esque yell at the end and gorilla grunts.

“Slide” by Slave

Song year: 1977.

The band Slave, formed in Ohio, traveled two states over to New Jersey to record their hit song “Slide.” It is the lead single on their debut album Slave, and peaked at number 32 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

The jam is popular enough to feature in several pop culture artifacts, like Marcus Raboy’s 2002 stoner comedy Christmas film Friday After Next. A Tribe Called Quest sampled the funk beat in “Go Ahead in the Rain,” and Travis Scott used portions of it in “Flying High.”

“Shining Star” by Earth, Wind, and Fire

Song year: 1975

Maurice White, Larry Dunn, and Philip Bailey worked together to compose “Shining Star,” with White and Bailey on the lead vocals. It was a milestone release, as the song soon became Earth, Wind, and Fire’s first single to hit number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Soul Singles.

“Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine (Part 1)” by James Brown

Song year: 1970

James Brown sings the lead vocals on his hit song “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine (Part 1),” while funk singer Bobby Byrd takes the backing vocals. The song’s start features a staged conversation between Brown and the rest of his band members. It leads the listener into a funky jam with many trumpet sounds, a piano, a guitar, and a sax.

“Rock Steady” by The Whispers

Rock Steady by The Whispers

Song year: 1987

The Whispers’ 18th studio album Just Gets Better with Time proved the truth in its title with the inclusion of their hit single “Rocky Steady.” It hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and seven on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs, making it their highest-charting single ever.

The funk song includes elements of the “new jack swing” genre, fusing r&b with dance-pop and hip-hop.

“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson

Song year: 1979

The King of Pop did not confine himself to the pop genre, becoming one of the most notable names in the funk genre, too. He wrote and recorded the disco-funk tune “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” for his fifth album, Off the Wall.

The song is a mile marker for the artist, winning him his first Grammy and AMA, which is why many consider it his most significant solo work.

“Brick House” by the Commodores

Song year: 1977

The Commodores released “Brick House” on their eponymous 1977 album. It quickly gained popularity, rising to number five on the US charts. The funky disco tune describes a woman with a great body and uses a horn to bleep out a crass word that comes between “brick” and “house.”

“You Dropped a Bomb on Me” by the Gap Band

Song year: 1982

The Gap Band released “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” as a single and on their studio album Gap Band IV. It peaked at 31 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and two on Hot Black Singles, making it one of the band’s highest-charting songs.

The most noteworthy part of the song is its use of whistling instruments that recreate the sound of a bomb dropping, a creative accompaniment to the lyrics.

“Love Rollercoaster” by Ohio Players

Song year: 1975.

The Ohio Players released “Love Rollercoaster” on their seventh and best studio album, Honey. The Recording Industry Association of America certified the song as gold after it hit number one on the American charts and number two in Canada.

“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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