Friday Funk: “Funky President” from 1974 could’ve been written today

This week’s Friday Funk installment is James Brown’s Funky President from 1974. Check out this back story:

– James Brown backs Richard Nixon opponent Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 presidential election.

– But when Nixon wins and invites Brown to play his inauguration, Brown accepts, then responds to criticism with this:

“I accepted because I want to give our new President a chance to bring the people of this nation together in every respect of our national life.”

– He steals the inauguration gala with “Black and Proud,” commanding the audience to “Say It Loud” and even some white members of the overwhelmingly white audience sang back “I’m Black And I’m Proud” (Brown used this idea to hilarious effect in an Undercover Brother movie cameo decades later).

– National togetherness mission accomplished through music, if only for a moment.

– When Nixon is reelected in 1972, Brown declines another inauguration performance after his Nixon support that election cycle caused fan boycotts.

– Brown releases “You Can Have Watergate, Just Give Me Some Bucks And I’ll Be Straight” in May 1973.

– Nixon resigns in August 1974 in the face of almost certain impeachment for being implicated in the Watergate DNC headquarters break in and subsequent cover up.

– Brown releases Funky President in October 1974 as a rebuke to Nixon successor Gerald Ford who pardoned Nixon the previous month.

– Funky President goes on to become one of the most sampled songs in hip hop, being used by Eric B. & Rakim, N.W.A., Salt-N-Pepa, Public Enemy, Heavy D & the Boyz, Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Run-DMC, Gang Starr, 2Pac, Lord Finesse, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Beastie Boys, KRS-One, Naughty by Nature, Tribe Called Quest, Usher, Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West, Rick Ross, Pusha T, Childish Gambino, DJ Shadow, De La Soul, Logic, Run the Jewels, and countless others.

Musicians aren’t politicians, but they are a critical vessel for political thought, and infinitely better at bringing people together than politicians. It shouldn’t be that politicians are so divisive but it is, and I’m grateful for parts of our culture that bring people together. Especially when the political climate today is an intensely amplified version of what was going on during the era described above.

So check out ‘You Can Have Watergate’ and ‘Funky President’ below, get your cool back for the weekend, and be cool to people around you. We’re all in this together.

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Liner Notes:

-If you like Friday Funk, here’s the full Friday Funk playlist on Spotify.

-If you don’t like Friday Funk, please consult my music policy.