Funk is a powerful and innovative style of music that compels myself and many others to get out of their seats and attack the dance floor. This article will lay out some of my favorite 20 funk songs of all time.
Funk artists spanning from Stevie Wonder to The Commodores are on my list, and yours may differ, but I’m sure you’ll find some newbies on this list you’ll enjoy as much as I do.
Best Funk Songs
“Superstition” – Stevie Wonder
Funky and hard-hitting, Superstition hits all the marks. The featured instrument on the track, starting it off, is called the clavinet. Stevie Wonder was quoted saying, “The clavinet was my electric guitar and there would’ve been no other way to get that sound”.
The clavinet on Superstitions helps set the track outside the realm of other funk songs by giving it a funky, catchy, and one-of-a-kind feel.
“Flashlight” – Parliament
George Clinton leads the way on this funkadelic track from the year 1977. Great dance and sing-along number for everyone in the room. This song is so funky it is almost infectious, making it nearly impossible not to move and dance to.
While the song is playing, on the dance floor the patrons will feel the lyrics from George Clinton, “Shinin’ on the funk” and most definitely be grooving to the feel and moving to the beat.
“One Nation Under a Groove” – Funkadelic
In 1978 Funkadelic came out with another smash hit in One Nation Under a Groove and in 1978, the nation really was hypnotized by the groove.
George Clinton makes the list again for writing and composing this song, filled with a straight groove beat, channeling energy otherwise rarely seen in funk songs before and since.
“Super Freak” – Rick James
Just after the heavy disco era, Rick James wrote and created one of the most memorable funk songs of all time in Super Freak.
With his colored dreadlocks and unforgettable smile and way with women, this song was the perfect musical marriage for James. Years later, MC Hammer would sample the bass line for his smash #1 hit You Can’t Touch This.
“Jungle Boogie” – Kool & the Gang
This song features a steady and straight beat with all the funk surrounding. This crazy and fun funk song took to the charts and people’s hearts during its peak and beyond. Featuring a saxophone along with catchy lyrics and delivery, this track will get the room grooving.
Funky chugging guitars keep the funk going throughout the song. A deep vocal track saying things like, “yah, ugh, feel the funk you all” and other sayings helps bring the track up a funk level or two.
“Brick House” – The Commodores
Brickhouse is one of the most famous funk songs to be played at weddings and other special events.
Although the song is sung about a beautiful and sexy lady who has everything to offer the guys, it seems all love and enjoy to get down to this song, joining in vocally during the song, “Brickhouse”.
“Chameleon” – Herbie Hancock
In 1973, Herbie Hancock came up with a funky and electronic feeling song in Chameleon. What sets this song apart is this is an instrumental song featuring no singer.
The song is led by a strong bass keyboard groove. This is the kind of song that will get everyone going on the dance floor. Starting from the basic groove and evolving throughout the piece to a climax. One of the most iconic funk songs of all time.
“Get Down on It” – Kool & the Gang
Kool & the Gang have another smash funk hit with Get Down on It. This song is about the wallflower and this song will encourage any wallflower to get off the wall and onto the dance floor.
Get your back up off the wall and get dancing.
“You Dropped a Bomb on Me” – The Gap Band
In 1982 The Gap Band really did drop a bomb but in a good way.
With this straight beat and electronic keyboard tones as a backdrop, this leaves the proper room for the singer to get his message across with the lyrics.
“Word Up!” – Cameo
A track that is more on the slower side of things, when it comes to funk music. The music isn’t quite as funky as many other funk songs.
However, the vocalist’s delivery of lyrics feels like a funky robot taking the lead singer role. Singing about dancing during the song and wondering what’s the word? Word up is the code word for funk!
“Higher Ground” – Stevie Wonder
Stevie made the top of this list and once again is making the list with a power track called Higher Ground. Using the clavinet, such as he did in Superstition, to form a very strong funk base for this song.
Higher Ground is one of Wonder’s most well-crafted and well-known funk songs. What makes this track such an experience is the funky bassline and catchy vocals working together to get the room dancing and moving. The Red Hot Chili Peppers borrowed this song to help launch their career.
“Rock Steady” – Aretha Franklin
No list of funk songs would be complete without including the most wonderful Aretha Franklin. Rock Steady is a strong track holding all the values of the typical funk track.
With Aretha singing over the lyrics and having the backup singers proclaiming, “What it is”, this song is a heavy hitter in the world of this genre.
“Slide” – Slave
Slide is an instrument heavy track delivering steady funk throughout. Guitar solos, horn solos, and a number of powerful instrumental build-ups will keep the beat going over the course of the track.
Some of the best moments of the song are when the big build-ups peak and then drop to fewer instruments, giving that big funk experience within the instrumental track.
“Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” – James Brown
James Brown was way ahead of his time with his performances and the music he created. This track is no different, coming out in 1965, ahead of almost all tracks on this list. Brown brings his bag of tricks with him in the creation of this track.
All the traditional elements he uses are in this song, including the backing horn sections, killer guitar strumming, and Brown’s vocal stylings. Brown proved once again to be ahead of his time with this track.
“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” – Michael Jackson
Many might forget that before Michael Jackson went solo, there was The Jackson Five who went through a massive funk phase as a group. The Jackson Five in 1979 released this song, which would prove to be one of the funkiest songs ever recorded by the Jackson brothers.
While the Jackson brothers lay a thick and powerful falsetto track as the lead throughout most of the song, Michael’s voice does step up and take the lead during certain moments. Overall, this is one of the funkiest tracks to be recorded by The Jackson Five and the song lives on.
“Mr. Big Stuff” – Jean Knight
In 1971, one of the slower-moving funk songs was released by Jean Knight. This track moves slow, but the funk is strong and thick. The group using a female lead voice lends credence to the term, “Mr. Big Stuff”. The tone of the vocalist instills a little bit of anger, resentment, but mostly a sense of independence and freedom from a man who did her wrong.
The lyrics spend their time letting Mr. Big Stuff know he will never get any love from her. Letting Mr. Big Stuff know his attitude needs adjustment and won’t be tolerated. There is no way she will allow Mr. Big Stuff to break her heart or tear her down, because she knows better than to get tricked into that.
“Love Rollercoaster” – Ohio Players
Love Rollercoaster is one of the most upbeat funk songs ever created in the year 1975. A fast-paced, fun adventure of a song that really lets the listener feel they have boarded an actual roller coaster ride. Listening and dancing to the song does give the feeling to the listener that they have boarded an actual rollercoaster.
Get on board and buckle up, because the horns going up and down throughout the song bring out the best of funk fun and the highest of funk energies to be embraced. Once again, mentioned on this list, The Red Hot Chili Peppers are credited for borrowing a track. The Red Hot Chili Peppers released Roller Coaster in 1996 as a single.
“Dance to the Music” – Sly & the Family Stone
No track is as blunt as this by Sly & the Family Stone. They want to make it clear to get up and dance to the music.
This funk song from 1968, lead by a straight and steady rock beat, makes it easy to get up and move your feet. A fun and overall exciting track with many sounds coming from different directions over the course of the song.
“You Sexy Thing” – Hot Chocolate
A little slower than many funk songs on this list, but a song with a strong message and groove to move to.
This song keeps everyone moving while the singer lets everyone know he believes in miracles and he finds a woman to be a sexy thing. This song came out in 1975.
“Kung Fu Fighting” – Carl Douglas
In 1974 one of the most memorable funk songs was created in Kung Fu Fighting. Using the common sounds of China as a lead as well as a flute to lead the way, this song holds true to the title, delivering the feel of the East.
A fun and funky musical adventure throughout the track, telling a story of kung fu fighters fighting each other in the streets. You’ll feel like you have left the United States and landed in China. Well, funky China.