Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage
David Crosby On 'Remember My Name': "It's An Opportunity To Tell The Truth"
In the brand-new Cameron Crowe-produced documentary, the classic-rock figurehead reflects on his place in music history—and the bridges he's burned along the way
David Crosby is one of the most well-known figures in what we colloquially call "classic rock." Watching the A.J. Eaton-directed, Cameron Crowe-produced documentary David Crosby: Remember My Name, one is reminded of just how there he was for rock's most transformative years: rubbing elbows with The Beatles as he came up in his own pioneering '60s band, The Byrds; performing at Woodstock and leading early '70s counterculture with protest anthem "Ohio" with Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young, among many other things.
As often is the case, with such monumental success came major obstacles for the 77-year-old Crosby: drug addiction, health setbacks, arrests and jailtime, professional bridges burned beyond repair. As Remember My Name points out a cringeworthy number of times, none of his former bandmates—Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Roger McGuinn—will speak to him anymore.
Through it all, Crosby's upper-register vocals remain uncannily unchanged. He still prolifically writes and records music, releasing four studio albums in the last five years: Croz (2014), Lighthouse (2016), Sky Trails (2017) and Here If You Listen (2018). He tours constantly—to the point where his wife of 32 years, Jan Dance, worries out loud that the next time he hits the road will be the last time she sees him alive. But Crosby is compelled by a force greater than himself to keep going. "My job in this life is to make music. It's the one contribution I can make," he tells the Recording Academy in an exclusive sit-down interview.
Below, Crosby opens up further about the documentary, which he says makes him feel "naked in public," working with his good friend Crowe once again and why this movie does not serve as an olive branch to his former bandmates.
The documentary is quite moving, and it’s not always flattering. How is it for you, watching yourself speak and relive these less-than-complimentary moments of your life and career?
I've seen it a number of times. It’s odd, being the subject of it. You have two points of view. One is as a stranger just looking in at this piece of work because I grew up in films. My dad was a cinematographer, same as him. So, there's a part of me that's watching it as a [consumer]. As a person, it's hard being naked in public. Try it.
We went into it wanting to make a documentary about a person. Let's skip who it is. If you want to make a documentary about a person, let's say it's you, I want to know what matters to you. I want to know who you love. I want to know what you're afraid of. I want to know what your dream is. That's the stuff I want to know. Now, that's not common currency. You don't see that in most documentaries. They are two shallow to do that. We went into this once fully agreeing that that was the only level we would really approach it at. It has to be a real picture, otherwise we're really not interested in painting it.
And it seems like Cameron Crowe was the right person to tell this story, because of your long-term friendship.
We had history.
But so many of the long-term relationships in your life have become tense and splintered. How is it that you and Cameron have maintained such a successful one?
You know what, I'm not sure. I think it’s the difference in the person. I think if you're in a band with somebody, you're confronted with them every day and that can wear thin over a period of time. Cameron and I have not been confronted with each other every day, but we do have a lot of respect for each other. It’s hard not to. I see his work. I know who he is from his work, and you got to love that guy. And he sees who I am from my work. It’s pretty good.
In the film, you're so self-aware. You seem to have gained a real ability to look back with a clear eye and accurate hindsight. What did it take for you to get to that place, where you could unflinchingly reevaluate some not-so-pretty events in your life?
It’s an ongoing process. It’s something that I mostly learned in 12-step programs. You have to be able to look at your life. Take an event, let's say a place where you made a mistake. You have to be able to look at it honestly. Look at it. Learn from it. How did I get here? What choice did I make that lead me here? And then set it down and walk on. Catharsis, it works. It's a really good thing. It's a good process. That's how I got to here. I think you can't really learn from yourself unless you're willing to look at it. And in the process of looking at it, if you can communicate to it, it's not easy but if you can do it, it’s good.
Do you hope or expect that any of your former bandmates will see this film?
I do hope they see it because it's honest and they'll know that. They know me really well. It's not an apology to them and it's not a flag saying, “Oh, please [forgive me].” It's not. It’s an opportunity to tell the truth, which is rare in this life, and it's a really decent piece of work. And on that level, I'm really proud of it and really happy with it.
The film explores your various health setbacks and simultaneously shows you going back on the road, which your wife, Jan, says worries her. She even says at one point that every time you go out on tour, she’s not sure if she’ll ever see you again. How does that sit for you?
What I think is different from what I feel. I think I have to go. What I feel is pain because I love my wife and I love my son and I love my home and I don't want to leave. If you saw it, you'd understand. If you spent a day with us, you'd think I would never leave. I guess it's good. My job in this life is to make music. It's the one contribution I can make. You heard me say that in the film and it's the truth. It's the one place I can lift. I do have to do it...it is necessary that I do it, but it is also my chief desire. It's a place I can contribute.
In the film you also talk about how CSNY and CSN are totally different bands. I'd love it if you would elaborate on why that is.
Adding Neil [Young] to a band like that is like adding nitroglycerin to the mix. He's an explosion waiting to happen and that's why I like working with him. He's always pushing the envelope. He's always pushing it to go further and I love that.
Photo: David Redfern/Redferns
10 Lesser-Known Joni Mitchell Songs You Need To Hear
In celebration of Joni Mitchell's 80th birthday, here are 10 essential deep cuts from the nine-time GRAMMY winner and MusiCares Person Of The Year.
Having rebounded from a 2015 aneurysm, the nine-time GRAMMY winner and 17-time nominee has made a thrilling and inspiring return to the stage. Many of us have seen the images of Mitchell, enthroned in a mockup of her living room, exuding a regal air, clutching a wolf’s-head cane.
Again, this adulation is apt. But adulation can have a flattening effect, especially for those new to this colossal artist. At the MusiCares Person Of The Year event honoring Mitchell ahead of the 2022 GRAMMYs, concert curators Jon Batiste — and Mitchell ambassador Brandi Carlile — illustrated the breadth of her Miles Davis-esque trajectory, of innovation after innovation.
At the three-hour, star-studded bash, the audience got "The Circle Game" and "Big Yellow Taxi" and the other crowd pleasers. But there were also cuts from Hejira and Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter and Night Ride Home, and other dark horses. There were selections that even eluded this Mitchell fan’s knowledge, like "Urge for Going." Batiste and Carlile did their homework.
But what of the general listening public — do they grasp Mitchell’s multitudes like they might her male peers, like Bob Dylan? Is her album-by-album evolution to be poured over with care and nuance, or is she Blue to you?
Of course, everyone’s entitled to commune with the greats at their own pace. However, if you’re out to plumb Mitchell’s depths beyond a superficial level, her 80th birthday — which falls on Nov. 8 — is the perfect time to get to know this still-underrated singer/songwriter legend better. Here are 10 deeper Mitchell cuts to start that journey, into this woman of heart and mind.
"The Gallery" (Clouds, 1969)
Mitchell blew everyone’s minds when David Crosby discovered her in a small club in South Florida. Her 1968 debut, Song to a Seagull, contains key songs from that initial flashpoint, like "Michael from Mountains" and "The Dawntreader."
Mitchell’s artistic vision truly coalesced on her second album, Clouds. Although the production is a little wan and bare-boned, Clouds contains a handful of all-time classics, including "Chelsea Morning," "The Fiddle and the Drum" and the epochal "Both Sides, Now."
That said, "The Gallery," which kicks off side two, belongs at the top of the heap. There remain rumblings that it’s about Leonard Cohen. But whatever the case, Mitchell’s excoriating burst of a pretentious cad’s bubble ("And now you're flying back this way/ Like some lost homing pigeon/ They've monitored your brain, you say/ And changed you with religion") remains incisive, with a gorgeous melody to boot.
(And, it must be said: "That Song About the Midway," also found on Clouds, is a kiss-off to Croz, whom she enjoyed a fleeting fling with and a must-hear.)
"Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire" (For the Roses, 1972)
If you think you’ve got a grasp of Mitchell’s early talents, a new archival release proves they were more prodigious than you could imagine.
Joni Mitchell Archives, Vol. 3: The Asylum Years (1972-1975) kicks off with a solo version of "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire." And as great as the studio version is, from 1972’s For the Roses, this version, from a session with Crosby and Graham Nash, arguably eats its lunch.
While Neil Young’s "The Needle and the Damage Done" has proved to be the epochal junkie-warning song of the 1970s, Mitchell’s song about the same subject easily goes toe to toe with it.
Images like "Pawn shops crisscrossed and padlocked/ Corridors spit on prayers and pleas" and "Red water in the bathroom sink/ Fever and the scum brown bowl" are quietly harrowing. Via Mitchell’s acoustic guitar, they’re underpinned by downcast, harmonically teeming blues.
"Sweet Bird" (The Hissing of Summer Lawns, 1975)
The Hissing of Summer Lawns is an unquestionable masterstroke of Mitchell’s fusion era.
Highlights are genuinely everywhere within Lawns — from the swinging and swaying "In France They Kiss on Main Street," to the Dr. Dre-predicting "The Jungle Line," to the title track, a hallucinatory lament for a trophy wife.
But amid these manifold high points, don’t miss "Sweet Bird," the penultimate track on The Hissing of Summer Lawns, tucked between "Harry’s House/Centerpiece" and "Shadows and Light."
"Give me some time/ I feel like I'm losing mine/ Out here on this horizon line," Mitchell sings through her dusky soprano, as the ECM-like atmosphere seems to whirl heavenward. "With the earth spinning/ And the sky forever rushing/ No one knows/ They can never get that close/ Guesses at most."
"A Strange Boy" (Hejira, 1976)
Much like The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Hejira — retroactively, and rightly, canonized as one of Mitchell’s very best albums — is nearly flawless from front to back.
The highs are so high — "Amelia," "Hejira," "Refuge of the Roads" — that almost-as-good tracks might slip through the cracks. "A Strange Boy," about an airline steward with Peter Pan syndrome she briefly linked with.
"He was psychologically astute and severely adolescent at the same time," Mitchell said later. "There was something seductive and charming about his childlike qualities, but I never harbored any illusions about him being my man. He was just a big kid in the end."
As "A Strange Boil" smolders and begins to catch flame, Mitchell delivers the clincher line: "I gave him clothes and jewelry/ I gave him my warm body/ I gave him power over me."
"Otis and Marlena" (Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, 1977)
One of Mitchell’s most challenging and thorny albums, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter is one of Mitchell’s least accessible offerings from her most expressionist era. (Mitchell in blackface on the cover, as a character named Art Nouveau, doesn’t exactly grease the wheels — to put it mildly.)
But across the sprawling and head-scratching tracklisting — which includes a seven-minute percussion interlude, in "The Tenth World" — are certain tunes that belong in the Mitchell time capsule.
One is "Otis and Marlena," one of the funniest and most evocative moments on an album full of strange wonders. Mitchell paints a picture of a cheap vacation scene, rife with "rented girls" and "the grand parades of cellulite" against a "neon-mercury vapor-stained Miami sky."
And the kicker of a chorus juxtaposes this dowdy Floridan outing with the realities up north, e.g. the 1977 Hanafi Siege: "They’ve come for fun and sun," MItchell sings, "while Muslims stick up Washington."
"A Chair in the Sky" (Mingus, 1979)
While Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter is rather glowering and unwelcoming, Mingus is a cracked, cubist realm that’s fully inhabitable.
Initially conceived as a collaboration between Mitchell and four-time GRAMMY nominee Charles Mingus, it ended up being a eulogy: Mingus died before the album could be completed.
Despite its lopsided nature — it contains five spoken-word "raps," as well as a true oddity in the eerie, braying "The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey" — Mingus remains rewarding almost 45 years later. And the Mingus-composed "A Chair in the Sky," with lyrics by Mitchell, is arguably its apogee.
Like the rest of Hejira, "A Chair in the Sky" features Jaco Pastorius and Wayne Shorter from Weather Report, as well as the one and only Herbie Hancock; this ethereal, ascendant track demonstrates the magic of when this phenomenal ensemble truly gels.
"Moon at the Window" (Wild Things Run Fast, 1982)
In Mitchell’s trajectory, Wild Things Run Fast represents the conclusion of her fusion phase, in favor of a more rock-driven sound — and, with it, the sunset of her second epoch.
Following Wild Things Run Fast would be 1985’s critically panned Dog Eat Dog and 1988’s even more assailed Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm. But for every arguable misstep, like the guitar-squealing "You Dream Flat Tires," there’s a baby that shouldn’t be thrown out with the bathwater.
One is "Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody," another is "Ladies’ Man," and perhaps best of all is the luminous "Moon at the Window," where bassist/husband Larry Klein and Shorter wrap Mitchell’s sumptuous lyric, and melody, in spun gold.
"Passion Play (When All the Slaves Are Free)" (Night Ride Home, 1991)
At the dawn of the grunge era, Mitchell found her way back to her atmospheric best, with the gorgeously written, performed and produced Night Ride Home.
While its follow-up, Turbulent Indigo, won the GRAMMY for Best Pop Album (and is certainly worth savoring), Night Ride Home might have more to offer those who were enraptured by the majestic Hejira, and thirsted for a continuation of its aural universe.
The equally excellent "Come in From the Cold" is the one that has ended up on Mitchell setlists in the 2020s, but "Passion Play (When All the Slaves Are Free)" is even more transportive.
Despite the early 1900s sonics, "Passion Play" feels ageless and eternal, tapped into some Jungian collective unconscious as a wizened Mitchell posits, "Who’re you going to get to do your dirty work/ When all the slaves are free?"
"No Apologies" (Taming the Tiger, 1998)
If Night Ride Home sounds less played than conjured Taming the Tiger is like the steam that twists and disperses from its broiling, potent stew.
As much ambience pervaded Night Ride Home, Hejira and the like, Taming the Tiger is the only album in Mitchell’s estimable catalog to feel ambient.
Much of this is owed to Mitchell’s employment of the Roland VG-8 virtual guitar system, which allowed her to change her byzantine guitar tunings at the push of a button; the ensuing sound is a suggestion of a guitar, which enhances Taming the Tiger’s diaphanous and ephemeral feel.
"No Apologies" is something of a centerpiece, where Mitchell sings of war and a dilapidated homeland, sailing forth on a cloud of Greg Liestz’s sonorous lap steel.
"Bad Dreams" (Shine, 2007)
Mitchell has always cast a jaundiced eye at the music industry machine, so it’s no wonder she hasn’t released a new album in 16 years. (Although, as she revealed to Rolling Stone, she’s eyeing a small-ensemble album of standards with her old mates in the jazz scene.)
But if Shine ends up being her swan song, it’d be a fine farewell. "Bad Dreams" — written around a quote from Mitchell’s 3-year-old grandson: "Bad dreams are good / In the great plan" — is impossibly moving.
Therein, Mitchell considers an Edenic tableau as opposed to our modern world, where "these lesions once were lakes." Movingly, the song’s final lines accept reality for what it is ("Who will come to save the day? / Mighty Mouse? Superman?") rather than what she wishes it could be.
With that, Mitchell’s studio discography — as we know it today — reaches its conclusion. But although the artist is only fully getting her flowers today, we’ve only scratched the surface of the gifts she’s bestowed upon us.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: Burak Cingi/Redferns
Remembering David Crosby: 5 Tracks That Define The Rock Storyteller's Thoughtful Craft & Social Commentary
Rock icon David Crosby passed away Jan. 19 at age 81. His discography, like his reputation, is an immense and disparate jaunt that doubles as a music history lesson.
David Crosby was a 1960s folk-rock star, a '70s singer-songwriter marvel and a contemporary creative who simply couldn’t stop churning out new music. Crosby died on Jan. 19 at the age of 81, leaving the world with a massive body of work that helped shape multiple generations. Many rightfully remember him as a rock icon.
"GRAMMY Award winner and 10-time nominee David Crosby left an indelible mark on the music community and the world," said Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason, jr. "As a co-founder of legendary groups the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, he created some of the most influential rock music in his multi-decade career. His incredible legacy will be remembered forever, and our thoughts are with his fans and loved ones during this difficult time."
Crosby has multiple entries in the GRAMMY Hall of Fame, though his only GRAMMY win came in 1970 with a Best New Artist golden gramophone for his work with Crosby, Stills & Nash. (He was nominated for the same award in 1966 for his work with the Byrds.) Crosby's most recent nomination at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards for his 2019 documentary, Remember My Name.
In a Facebook post, Graham Nash recalled the "pure joy of the music we created together, the sound we discovered with one another, and the deep friendship we shared. David was fearless in life and in music." Neil Young echoed that sentiment in a statement, reflecting on how Crosby's "voice and energy were at the heart of our band. His great songs stood for what we believed in and it was always fun and exciting when we got to play together."
Crosby’s discography, like his reputation, is an immense and disparate jaunt that doubles as a lesson in music history. From his most recent slate of solo singles — which dabbled in folk and jazz — to his groovy work with the Byrds that made him famous, and his sometimes tumultuous collaborations with Stephen Stills, Nash and Young, here are five essential tracks that paint an aural picture of the music legend.
"Turn! Turn! Turn!" (1965)
Crosby helped concoct this anthem while a member of folk-rock group the Byrds, and it's difficult to imagine protests, happenings and fashion of the hippie generation without hearing "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
Folk heavyweight Pete Seeger borrowed the bulk of the lyrics from the Bible's Book of Ecclesiastes, though the Byrds made the song a hit. Crosby's rhythm guitar and backing vocals give the song a mystical quality (along with Roger McGuinn’s 12 string Rickenbacker, of course). Synonymous with the activism that engulfed the conflict in Vietnam, "Turn! Turn! Turn! went to No. 1 just as that war in Southeast Asia was at the top of public consciousness.
Written by Crosby for Crosby, Stills & Nash's self-titled debut album, the tender, heart-wrenching "Guinnevere" tells the story of three women — among them, a girlfriend he lost in a car accident — opening with the plaintive, "Guinnevere had green eyes" before transitioning into a haunting line: "She shall be free."
Subsequently covered by Miles Davis on The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions, a live version of "Guinnevere" was also one of the very last songs Crosby released. Speaking to Music Radar, Crosby said the torch song "could be his best" — quite a statement, considering the scope of his mighty career.
"Almost Cut My Hair" (1970)
Crosby wrote this irreverent yet poignant ode to the counterculture for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's Déjà vu. The song takes Crosby’s famously stubborn nature and transposes it to the fading days of the hippie movement, long hair and all.
"If you’re writing a song like 'Almost Cut My Hair,'" Crosby said in his final interview, just two weeks before his death, "[And it’s] something where you feel like you have a point to make, then that anger can come in there but you’ve got to be careful with that s—." Aside from the of-the-moment lyrics (in which he proclaims he feels like letting his "freak flag fly"), Crosby takes center stage musically. His voice is the only one heard, as Still, Nash and Young pitch in on instrumentation.
"Cowboy Movie" (1971)
Foreshadowing his future career, Crosby was deep in his collaboration with CSNY when he released his debut solo album If I Can Only Remember My Name. Featuring friends such as Joni Mitchell, and members of Santana and the Grateful Dead (they called their band the the Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra), the album was maligned upon its release but has been reassessed to acclaim.
"Cowboy Movie," with the Dead’s Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh on guitar and bass, is a tribute to the tales of the Old West. "Now I'm dying here in Albuquerque," Crosby sings as the song comes to a close. "I must be the sorriest sight you ever saw."
"She’s Got to Be Somewhere" (2017)
"Whatever time I have left on this planet should be dedicated to making the best music I can," Crosby said in 2018 "It’s the one contribution I can make. Music helps things; it makes things better." Crosby did just that, going on a creative tear where he released a bevy of solo albums.
On 2017's Sky Trails, the man who helped pioneer folk and psychedelic rock is almost unrecognizable. The cool and crackling "She’s Got To Be Somewhere," a co-production between Crosby and his adopted son James Raymond, is an exploration of jazz fusion. "It’s ingrained in me and it’s ingrained in my son James," Crosby said of his jazz influences during a 2019 conversation with Jazz Times, citing jazz titans Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan and Bill Evans.
Photo: Rachel Kupfer
A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.
It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.
Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.
Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.
In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.
Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.
There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.
Say She She
Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.
While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."
Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.
Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.
Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.
Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.
L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.
During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.
Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.
Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.