Larry Graham and the Foundation of Funk

During the late sixties into the seventies popular music was changing and a new rhythm was being introduced which would become the foundation of all the music that came afterwards.  James Brown set the rhythmic foundation with his concept of “the one” and other bands started to develop different ways of playing around this rhythmic concept. 

One group that developed a new completely new style from this concept was Sly and the Family Stone.  Their approach blended the rhythms and horns of James Brown, the electric guitar and organ timbres of the psychedelic rock movement and the Stax sound, and a choral approach like some of the Motown groups.

The bass player of this group, Larry Graham, laid down one of the most notable and influential techniques of electric bass during this era.  In an instructional video he talks about the circumstances that caused him to create this technique.  He says that he was in a group that lost its drummer and he used his bass to replace the bass drum and snare sound by “thumpin’ and pickin’” on the bass with his thumb and forefinger.

One of the first tunes that he was able to showcase this technique with Sly and the Family Stone was “Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Agin)”

The sound of Larry Graham along with Bootsy Collins (alumni of James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic) became the foundation for the new sound of Funk and eventually Hip Hop as well (Janet Jackson sampled the breakdown of this song for her song “Rhythm Nation”).

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