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Funky Ohio

by Jason Gubbels

Funky Ohio

About this playlist

It's wholly appropriate that Ohio boasts a town (well, a Wayne County unincorporated community) named Funk. Few regions have supplied the nation with as many funk outfits as the Buckeye State; Dayton alone lays claim to a stunning array of chart-topping funkateers, from The Ohio Players and Zapp to Slave and Lakeside.

All paths lead back to Cincinnati's formidable shape-shifting R&B outfit The Isley Brothers. After forming in 1954, the Brothers proved capable of riding out (and capitalizing on) trends with the often-fickle pop audience, embracing funk early on before eventually moving on to disco and quiet storm. Fellow Cincinnatian Bootsy Collins brought his groundbreaking funk bass to the masses via a short tenure with James Brown before joining George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic army and breaking off into a supremely goofy solo career with his Rubber Band (see also Bootsy's 1971 dance outfit House Guests and their classic groove "What So Never the Dance"). And one of the quintessential examples of the Philadelphia sound actually came courtesy of Canton, Ohio, at least once Gamble & Huff signed The O'Jays to their Philadelphia International label.

This playlist follows a roughly chronological path from the major artists of the early 1970s through the glory years of southwest Ohio's increasingly synth-edged funk scene at decade's end. It touches on some of the era's second acts (both Slave's vocalist Steve Arrington and the sons of O'Jay's lead vocalist Eddie Levert found success in the mid-1980s) before concluding with a handful of late '80s/early '90s grooves from Aurra, Rude Boys and Men at Large. And watch out for a few surprisingly funky tracks from punk/New Wave groups like The Waitresses and Pere Ubu, which just go to show that funk runs in the Ohio blood.

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