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Radio: Boogie-Funk

Radio: Boogie-Funk

by Mosi Reeves  |  August 15, 2012

Radio: Boogie-Funk

"Boogie-funk" is a catchall for the black dance-music scene of the early 1980s. Back then, people just called it funk or disco, though it sounded very different from the funk and disco of the 1970s. Once limited to strange keyboard lines à la keyboardist Bernie Worrell's "funky worm" melody, synthesizers became inescapable, although musicians continued to play them like guitars. In fact, massive funk collectives like Con Funk Shun, The Bar-Kays and Zapp thrived, emphasizing the synthesizers as well as massive, walloping bass, the kind that rattled apartment windows when cars blasting Cameo's "Keep It Hot" rolled down the street nearby. 

This was the post-disco period, when producers like Leon Sylvers (Shalamar, Dynasty, The Whispers), Hubert Eaves III (D-Train), Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (The S.O.S. Band), and Kashif (George Benson, Whitney Houston) fused synthesizer music and uptempo arrangements into something not quite like disco or house (the latter of which arrived later in the decade), but close to it. When DJs like Dam-Funk began reviving this music in the mid-2000s, they used terms like "boogie" and "boogie-funk" to describe it. The style ranges from Mtume's classic "Juicy Fruit" to Michael Jackson's world-beating Thriller, and even certain tracks by Lionel Richie ("Love Will Find a Way") and Luther Vandross ("I'll Let You Slide").

However, our Boogie-Funk station not only refers to a specific sound, but an era when black radio stations played a wide range of sounds, including early hip-hop hits from Whodini, Run-D.M.C., and Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force; freestyle club records by Madonna (at least her 1983 self-titled album), Debbie Deb and Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam; electro jams by Cybotron and the Jonzun Crew; and the occasional pop crossover smash like Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls," David Bowie's "Let's Dance" and Duran Duran's "The Reflex." It kicks off around 1979, when Prince's self-titled second album yielded the synthesized disco of "I Wanna Be Your Lover" and "Sexy Dancer"; and ends around 1986, give or take a song or two, when Janet Jackson's Control presaged the rise of teen urban pop and New Jack Swing. In between those years lies the world of boogie music.