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1962 Was The Final Year We Didn't Know The Beatles. What Kind Of World Did They Land In?
The Beatles broke out regionally in 1963 and nationally in 1964, which makes 1962 the last year they weren't widely known. And given that we'll probably never forget them, that makes it a special year indeed. What was going on then?
During the mid-to-late 1950s, the titans of rock 'n' roll dominated the earth; by 1962, many of them had seemingly gone extinct.
Buddy Holly went down, young. Little Richard found Jesus. Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13-year-old cousin and was crucified in the press. Chuck Berry spent three years in jail. Elvis, fresh out of the army, was making films often derided as beneath him. So when the Beatles broke out — regionally in 1963, and nationally the following year — they arrived in a barren, joyless world, right?
This is usually the line: In the wake of the Kennedy assassination, in a wasteland of schmaltzy, insipid crooners, the Fabs made the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose. As a gang of impudent, talented youths — a feast for the ears and eyes — with reams to give the world, they taught an unmoored and grieving America to have fun again.
Of course, that certainly applies to some Americans in those days. But if you ask Mike Pachelli, he might give you a different story. Because he was there.
"That's crazy," the guitarist, educator and YouTuber tells GRAMMY.com. And he's largely known to the world because of the Beatles; he deconstructs their songs to his almost 100,000 YouTube subscribers. But for all his reverence for the Fab Four, Pachelli describes life just before them as chock full of culture, including artists still revered as household names.
"Kids are always very industrious, and we found stuff that was cool," Pachelli adds. "It's just that when the Beatles came around it was like, 'Wow, that's a whole other kind of cool.'"
On one hand, 1962 is a very special year. It was the last in human history — a span of anywhere from 6,000 to six million years, depending on who you ask — that the Beatles wouldn't be a widely recognized thing. And save a species-ending celestial event, it's likely humanity will never forget them. This, in musical terms, makes 1962 something of a year zero, a liminal point between B.C. and A.D.
The Beatles performing at the Star Club in Hamburg in May 1962. Photo: K & K Ulf Kruger OHG/Redferns
Indeed, it's tempting to frame the Beatles as messianic — reams of ink have made their debut performance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" to reinforce that narrative. Everybody remembers "All My Loving," "She Loves You" and the rest; few remember that they were followed by a desperate-looking magician doing salt-shaker tricks. (As Rob Sheffield put it in Dreaming the Beatles: "Acrobats, jugglers, puppets — this is what people did for fun before the Beatles came along?")
Through that lens, the Beatles can look like the product of divine intervention, meant to restore brilliant hues to a monochrome culture, Wizard of Oz-style. Why not ask Tune In author Mark Lewisohn about it? He's almost universally regarded as the foremost global authority on the Fab Four. And to that point, he lists some names.
"Otis Redding, James Brown, Little Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Freda Payne, Randy Newman, Ike and Tina Turner, the Supremes, Wilson Pickett, Gladys Knight, P.J. Proby, Barbara Streisand, Glen Campbell, Patti LaBelle, and Dionne Warwick" were all waiting in the wings or as established stars in 1962, he tells GRAMMY.com.
"They're all making records before the Beatles," Lewisohn continues. "So, anyone who says the Beatles fashioned the entire scene doesn't know what they're talking about." Rather, the Beatles entered an already-fecund landscape 60 years ago — and reshaped it forever.
"Humming A Song From 1962"
In the grand pop-cultural timeline, 1962 tends to represent innocence, youth and the "good old days." In his 1976 hit "Night Moves," Bob Seger awakens "to the sound of thunder," with a song from that year on his lips. (It was the Ronettes' "Be My Baby," which was actually from '63; apparently, Seger felt strongly enough about what 1962 meant to him to tweak history a tad.)
Plus, George Lucas didn't set his classic coming-of-age flick American Graffiti in 1962 for nothing.
"These kids are driving all night and they're hearing the '50s rock 'n' roll on the radio," Sheffield, who is also a Rolling Stone contributing editor, tells GRAMMY.com of the 1973 film. "They're listening to Wolfman Jack and it's kind of the last gasp of that old school rock 'n' roll era."
Sheffield cites the scene where a brooding John Milner (played by Paul Le Mat) tells the gangly, 12-year-old Carol Morrison (played by Mackenzie Phillips) to turn off "that surfing s<em></em>*" on the dashboard radio — the Beach Boys' "Surfin' Safari." "Rock 'n' roll's been going downhill ever since Buddy Holly died," Milner reports, his face fallen.
American Graffiti's soundtrack is packed with hits that paint a picture of young love in Modesto, California, in 1962. Aside from '50s jukebox mainstays like Bill Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock," you've got obscurer cuts by acts like Lee Dorsey, the Cleftones, and Joey Dee and the Starlighters — all from the previous year.
If you want to understand the prevailing vibe of the year in question, American Graffiti is the first looking-glass you should peer through. For another, look no further than the Beatles' infamous audition for Decca Records — on the very first day of 1962.
"Searchin' Every Which A-Way"
The Beatles had a massive, unlikely shot on January 1, 1962, when they auditioned for Decca Records. But by most accounts, they blew it: the label ended up telling them "guitar groups are on their way out." (They ultimately went with Brian Poole and the Tremeloes.)
The Decca audition, which floats around the internet today, is famously regarded as terrible — John Lennon called it "terrible" himself a decade later. But if you listen today with fresh ears, it's really not — despite some rough moments and pre-Ringo drummer Pete Best's shaky grasp of rhythm.
It's important to note that the Beatles weren't experimenters come 1965 with Rubber Soul, or with 1966's Revolver — they were a deeply experimental band from jump. The Beatles were unique for their ability to emulate and synthesize disparate threads of 1962's musical landscape; just take a look at their Decca setlist:
Immediately notable are Lennon-McCartney originals like "Like Dreamers Do," "Hello Little Girl" and "Love of the Loved," which was unheard of — rock 'n' roll groups simply didn't write their own songs back then.
On top of that, you've got a Phil Spector ("To Know Her is to Love Her"), a showtune via Peggy Lee ("'Til There Was You"), a jolt of Detroit R&B ("Money (That's What I Want)"), comedic numbers (three Coasters songs, including "Searchin'"), a jazz standard (Dinah Washington's take on "September in the Rain") — on and on and on. All of that, plus country and western, music hall, and so many other forms, were swimming around their skulls.
"What they'd been doing in Hamburg and then brought back to Liverpool was 'We just have to do everything, because we're playing for 10 hours a night,'" Alan Light, a music journalist, author and SiriusXM host, tells GRAMMY.com. "Anything that they knew, or anything that they might know, was fair game for material, because they just had to keep going."
But the Beatles' omnivorousness in this regard, both in their choice of cover material and raw inspirations for songs, wasn't just to run the clock — it spoke to their essences as artists and human beings. "They were so receptive to anything that was good, and it didn't matter what genre it was, as it didn't matter what genre they were," Lewisohn says.
So, how do you know that music in 1962 was, in many ways, outstanding? Because without it, there'd be no raw material for the Beatles to work with.
Aside from the Beatles' purview, other fascinating musical forces were at play. According to Kenneth Womack, a leading Beatles author, what the music industry hawked in 1962 wasn't necessarily what the public asked for — hence John Milner's reaction in American Graffiti.
"What happens is you go from that pretty intense rock era to the crooners and doo-woppers coming back with a vengeance," Womack tells GRAMMY.com. "That was really not music that people wanted. It was music that was marketed to us."
Still, many tunes from 1962 and thereabouts endure — including all the tremendous, often Black, talent Lewisohn mentions above, as well as a smattering of bubblegum songs that have baked themselves into 21st-century life.
That year, Shelley Fabares released her confectionary cover of "Johnny Angel," and Chubby Checker's "Let's Twist Again" won a GRAMMY for Best Rock 'n' Roll Recording. The Tokens’ "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" became a No. 1 hit; so did Gene Chandler's "Duke of Earl." ("There's still a pulse around the old-world stuff," Light notes about the latter tune. "It's not gone.")
Plus, recent years had given us "Itsie Bitsie Teeny Weeny Yellow Polkadot Bikini" and "The Purple People Eater" — further proof of novelty songs' enduring presence.
"It's funny that the song from 1962 we hear the most nowadays might be 'Monster Mash,' which has just turned into such a seasonal banger," Sheffield says. "If you went back to a music fan in 1962 and said, 'Sixty years in the future, the most famous song from this era is going to be 'Monster Mash,' people would laugh in your face."
"You've got a lot of the trivial pop throwaways that the people laugh about, but a lot of those were fantastic songs," he continues, citing rock 'n' roll singer Freddy Cannon's "Palisades Park" as a "fan-f<em></em>*ing-tastic song": "The drummer on that song is absolutely insane. That's the year that Stax starts to make its mark nationwide."
On top of that, you've got Spector, Motown, Chicago soul, Memphis instrumental R&B (hello, Booker T. and the MGs' "Green Onions"), the still-green Beach Boys and Bob Dylan… the list goes on. To say nothing of Ray Charles, whose Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music — released in 1962 — remains a monumental fusion of Black and white cultures.
1962 was also a major year in American culture: John Glenn became the first man to orbit the Earth, the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted, and it was the only full year John F. Kennedy was president. The Space Needle and the first Wal-Mart were opened. Marilyn Monroe sang "Happy Birthday" to JFK and died three months later.
The demolished Star Club in 1987. Photo: Günter Zint/K & K Ulf Kruger OHG/Redferns
In British media at the very least, there was a shift toward irreverence that left an opening for the flippant and cheeky Fabs. "The Beatles came up at the very same time when you could be less respectful to the sacred cows of society," Lewisohn says, noting a rising acceptance of unfettered working-classness, like in the pre-"Sanford and Son" show in the UK, "Steptoe and Son."
Sheffield stresses the impact of the draft on the world the Beatles entered: "I think they presented to American youth a vision of adult male life that wasn't military-based or violence-based," he says. And across the pond, the abolition of conscription in the UK in 1959 had fundamentally shaped the Beatles' path.
"They were clearly not boys who had been in the war," Lewisohn says. "The Beatles escaped it in the very nick of time."
What If The Beatles Never Broke Through?
As most parties agree, one of the weirdest things about the Beatles is that they happened at all — which is easy to overlook due to their sheer omnipresence.
"For me, the weirdest things about the Beatles are the most obvious things about the Beatles. Just the four of them being born in this town and finding each other and making music together," Sheffield says. "It's so shocking and bizarre that that synchronicity happened and that they were as good as they were, and they were able to keep inspiring and challenging and goading and competing with each other, and that they were able to scale those heights."
"I mean, there's nothing in world culture that's anything like a precedent for this," he continues. "And they were able to do it for 10 years, which is about 30 times longer than anybody would have predicted in 1962. That in itself is so completely bizarre."
Not that anyone could be a prognosticator — but if the Beatles had never been born, or broke up when they began, what would the '60s be like? Obviously, the Vietnam War and subsequent youth revolt would happen. Humanity would land on the moon.
But the music world, including all their peers, would be radically different. Without them, the Stones would probably never have written songs, or had their manager. The Beach Boys wouldn't have been spurred to make Pet Sounds or "Good Vibrations." The Byrds wouldn't use a 12-string Rickenbacker (Roger McGuinn got it from A Hard Day's Night), nor spell their name with a y. Bob Dylan may have never broken out of the folk scene.
Without the Beatles, the template of a self-contained band — a democratic gang with a unified message, lobbing working-class Britishness into the world, raining down heartening music and blistering humor, and reinventing themselves seven or eight times before drawing the blueprint for band breakups — would be gone.
"I feel like rock 'n' roll would've come back," Colin Fleming, who writes articles and books about the Beatles, tells GRAMMY.com. "It's almost like someone's on the injured list on the baseball team."
But everything played out how it did — and what unending pleasure and edification. Still, history screams that the decade would have remained semi-recognizable without the Beatles.
The '60s would still be action-packed, just in a different way; it contained all the nascent threads and forces to be so. In 1962, you had the debuts of James Bond, Spider-Man and "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange was published. Lawrence of Arabia opened in cinemas. America's presence in Vietnam dramatically escalated.
"The more I thought about it, October of '62 is interesting," Jordan Runtagh, an executive producer and host at iHeartMedia, tells GRAMMY.com. "That's the month that 'Love Me Do' came out. On the same day, Dr. No came out. It's the same month that Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? came out, which completely revolutionized the theater."
It's easy to consider the '60s without the Beatles as unthinkable. But even as a diehard fan, the thought is actually strangely beautiful.
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7 Artists Influenced By The Beach Boys: The Beatles, Weezer, The Ramones & More
Ahead of "CBS Presents: A GRAMMY Salute to the The Beach Boys," take a look at the profound influence of the harmonious Southern California trailblazers of a new sound of surf-rock and good-time vibes in the 1960s.
When talk turns to the history of American pop vocal groups in the 20th century, the conversation begins — and ends — with the Beach Boys. These California siblings and their high school compadres reinvented modern music, taking listeners on a sonic journey with their melodic harmony-rich hits. More than 60 years on, the group is still considered a touchstone for today’s artists and the pinnacle of pop.
The Beach Boys formed in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne in 1961. The original lineup featured the three Wilson brothers (Dennis, Brian and Carl), cousin Mike Love and high-school friend Al Jardine. Initially, Murry Wilson (the siblings father) managed the group and helped land their first paying gig: opening for Ike and Tina Turner at the Ritchie Valens Memorial Dance in Long Beach on New Year’s Eve 1961.
It was an auspicious start to the year. That summer, the teenage quintet with a joie de vivre and a love of sun, surf, and sand signed to Capitol Records. The major label deal followed the success of their first two singles: "Surfin,’" which reached No. 3 on West Coast regional charts and sold 40,000 copies, and "Surfin’ Safari." The band’s debut full-length, Surfin’ Safari, climbed all the way to No. 32 on the Billboard charts.
The Beach Boys sophomore release, Surfin’ U.S.A., came out less than six months after their debut and saw Brian Wilson experimenting more with innovative studio techniques like double-tracking vocals. The album hit No. 2 on the Billboard charts — but the band's success and innovation had far from peaked.
1964's All Summer Long capped a year when the group played more than 100 shows around the world and recorded all or parts of four albums, largely leaving the beachy parts of their sound behind in favor of new sonic textures and more personal lyrics. Released in May 1966, Pet Sounds was the high point of this experimentation and cemented the group as innovators. The intricately arranged concept album peaked at No. 10 in the U.S., but reached second spot in the British charts. The record came to represent the future possibilities of pop and signaled a shift in music-making and studio wizardry. Today, it’s considered one of the most influential albums of the 20th century due to its pioneering production and introspective lyrics.
Dozens of artists have covered the album’s most well-known song: "God Only Knows," including: Glen Campbell, David Bowie, Olivia Newton-John and Wilson Phillips. Graham Nash cites "God Only Knows" as a significant inspiration to him when first learning the craft of writing songs.
All told, the Beach Boys released 29 studio albums, 11 live recordings and dozens upon dozens of compilations. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and they have been nominated for four GRAMMY Awards. The band have impacted everyone from contemporaries like the Beatles to current indie-folk rockers Fleet Foxes. Beyond commercial success — more than 100 million records sold, four No.1 Billboard hits and more than 33 Platinum and Gold Records (the greatest hits album Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of the Beach Boys sold three million copies alone) — there are few genres these California kids have not had an influence on over the past six decades.
In advance of the April 9 television special "A GRAMMY Salute to The Beach Boys" — which features Beck, Brandi Carlile, Fall Out Boy, Norah Jones, John Legend, Michael McDonald, Weezer, Charlie Puth and Mumford & Sons — GRAMMY.com shines a light on seven artists who count these sweet-singing melody-making trailblazers as essential to their musical education.
Listen to the vocal harmonies in songs like "Paperback Writer" and the complex arrangements, orchestration and time-shifts on "A Day in the Life" and try not to hear the sonic similarities. Pet Sounds came out the year before the GRAMMY-winning Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and early demos and acetates of the album ended up in the hands of the British band. Paul McCartney is also on record saying: "God Only Knows" is the greatest song ever written and he cries every time he hears it.
George Martin, the "fifth Beatle" and GRAMMY-winning producer who was the studio architect of some of the Fab Four’s biggest albums, heralded Wilson and acknowledged the Beach Boys' influence on Sgt. Pepper’s. "Brian is a living genius of pop music. Like the Beatles, he pushed forward the frontiers of popular music," Martin says in Charles L Granata’s book Brian Wilson And The Making Of Pet Sounds.
"There’s no greater world created in rock and roll than the Beach Boys, the level of musicianship, I don’t think anybody’s touched it yet," Bruce Springsteen said in the documentary Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road.
Listen to "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" from 2007s Magic, which sonically could have easily fit on Pet Sounds 40 years earlier. Or put on your headphones and zone out to "Hungry Heart," the Boss’ first top 10 hit and try not to hear the Beach Boys' influence in the arrangement. In the documentary, Springsteen praises Wilson, his friend and musical mentor: "[He] just took you out of where you were and took you to another place."
Surf-rock influencing punk-rock? You bet. The Ramones were well aware of, and influenced by, the SoCal music movement of the 1960s when they exploded onto the burgeoning punk scene in 1974.
The Beach Boys were one of the messiahs from the past they worshiped and looked to while crafting some of their most enduring punk rock anthems. "Rockaway Beach" was penned by bassist Dee Dee Ramone to mimic the style of the Beach Boys earliest surf-rock hits, but was sped up to match the punk rockers energy. Many of the Ramones’s song titles and lyrics — just like the California group — clung to the innocence of youth and name-dropped local attractions and experiences that kids growing up in the boroughs understood.
Take these lines from: “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” : “I’d rather stay here in my room/ Nothin’ out there but sad and gloom/ I don’t want to live in a big old tomb on Grand Street.” Remind you of the pensive “In My Room” perhaps? Or, how about "Oh Oh I Love Her So," from Leave Home? Joey Ramone sings of falling in love by a soda machine and then riding the coaster with his girl down at Coney Island all night long. The song even ends with a surf-rock riff.
Not long after moving from the East Coast to Los Angeles, Weezer’s lead singer and songwriter Rivers Cuomo bought a copy of Pet Sounds. The album would go on to influence the early days of the alternative-rock band and Cuomo’s approach to songwriting, especially on their self-titled debut.
Weezer once covered the Beach Boys' "Don’t Worry Baby" and, on the GRAMMY-nominated Pacific Daydream (2017) there’s a song called "Beach Boys." In an interview, Cuomo reflected on Wilson’s wide-ranging, everlasting influence: "To me, he’s one of the standout talents of the century or of our culture. I think I’m a pea in comparison. But I certainly emulate him as do countless others." On the forthcoming GRAMMY salute to the Beach Boys, Weezer covers "California Girls."
While his friends were studying algebra, a teenage Robin Pecknold was studying The Beach Boys — specifically how they created their complex stacked harmonies. This musical education began the foundation for his band Fleet Foxes and their approach to harmonizing and making music. In this interview on Brian Wilson’s website, the songwriter refers to the Beach Boys music as his "textbooks." "My parents bought me a four track for my1 5th birthday and I would practice stacking harmonies for hours on end," he recalled.
From the layered harmonies that open "Sun it Rises," the first track on the band’s self-titled 2008 debut, and the intricate orchestration that follows, the Beach Boys comparison is evident. Pecknold acknowledges this influence in the liner notes, writing: "Whenever I hear 'Feel Flows' by the Beach Boys, I’m taken straight to the back of my parents’ car on the way to my grandparents’ place, fourteen with Surf’s Up in my walkman and the Cascade Mountains going by in the window."
In that same interview posted on Wilson’s website, Peckhold raved about Brian Wilson's influence on him as a young musician. "I remember being so driven as a teenager by how much amazing music Brian made in his early 20s. That he was such a prodigious master of his craft, making Pet Sounds at the astounding age of 23, always pushed me to get as good as I could as a musician, as soon as I could," Peckhold reflected. "But at some point I accepted that haste is no substitute for brilliance, there is only one Brian Wilson."
And, if this is not proof enough, Fleet Foxes sampled Wilson’s voice from "Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)" on the song "Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman" on 2020s GRAMMY-nominated Shore.
The French synth-rock quartet that formed in 1995 show how the Beach Boys' influence spans not only generations, but borders. This admiration for the California soft-rock sounds of the 1960s and harmonious pop is most apparent on the GRAMMY-winning band’s sixth album: Ti Amo. Just like Pet Sounds, these cerebral musicians mine the depths of human emotions on this record and find the spaces in between to shed light on what we all feel. In this piece, Phoenix discusses how Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys influenced the sunny sounds of this 2017 record that is a love letter to Europe.
The Sha La Das
Family harmonies? Check. Summer vibes? Check. Led by father Bill Schalda and featuring the sibling sounds of his three sons — Will, Paul and Carmine — this band hail from Staten Island. Growing up, the brothers often sang on the front stoop with Bill providing guidance. Later, they sang backup on the late Charles Bradley’s Victim of Love.
Listen to the old-soul and do-wop of "Summer Breeze" from the band’s 2018 debut Love in the Wind and you are transported to southern California, circa 1961, and the first time the sunny sounds of the Beach Boys came across the airwaves.
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Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
10 College Courses Dedicated To Pop Stars And Music: Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny & Hip-Hop
In honor of Music in Our Schools Month, check out nine college-level music courses that dissect punk and EDM, global hip-hop culture and the discographies and careers of superstar acts like the Beatles and Harry Styles.
There’s never been a better time to be a music-loving college student.
Beginning in the mid to late aughts, an increasing number of academic institutions have begun offering courses dedicated to major music acts. In the late aughts, rap maverick Jay-Z made headlines after becoming the subject of a Georgetown University course taught by Michael Eric Dyson, a sociologist and best-selling author of Jay-Z: Made in America. In the Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z, students analyzed Hova's life, socio-cultural significance and body of work.
It's easy to see why students would be attracted to these courses — which fill up quickly and are often one-time-only offerings. The intertwining of celebrity and sociology present such fertile grounds to explore, and often make for buzzy social media posts that can be a boon to enrollment numbers. For instance, Beyhivers attending the University of Texas at San Antonio were offered the opportunity to study the Black feminism foundations of Beyoncé's Lemonade in 2016. Meanwhile, Rutgers offered a course dedicated to dissecting the spiritual themes and imagery in Bruce Springsteen's catalog.
Luckily for students clamoring to get a seat in these highly sought-after courses, institutions across the country are constantly launching new seminars and classes about famous pop stars and beloved musical genres. From Bad Bunny to Harry Styles, the following list of popular music courses features a little something for every college-going music fan.
Bad Bunny's Impact On Media
From his chart-topping hits to his advocacy work, Bad Bunny has made waves on and off stage since rising to fame in 2016. Now graduate students at San Diego State University can explore the global superstar's cultural impact in an upcoming 2023 course.
"He speaks out about Puerto Rico; he speaks out about the Uvalde shooting victims and uses his platform to raise money and help them," said Dr. Nate Rodriguez, SDSU Associate Professor of Digital Media Studies. "How does he speak out against transphobia? Support the LGBTQ community? How does all of that happen? So yes, it’s very much relevant to journalism and media studies and cultural studies. It’s all of that mixed into one."
A Deep Dive Into Taylor Swift's Lyrics
Analyzing Taylor Swift's lyrics is a favorite pastime among Swifties, so it's fitting that her work and its feminist themes have been the focus of a string of university courses over the years.
In spring 2022, the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University launched an offering focused on the "Anti-Hero" singer's evolution as an entrepreneur, race and female adolescence. The waitlisted course — the first-ever for the institution — drew loads of media attention and Swift received an honorary degree from NYU in 2022.
In spring 2023, honors students at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas can analyze the 12-time GRAMMY winner's music and career in a seminar titled Culture and Society- Taylor Swift.
Kendrick Lamar's Storytelling & The Power Of Hip-Hop
Since dropping good kid, m.A.A.d. City in 2012, Kendrick Lamar has inspired a slew of academics to develop classes and seminars around his lyrical content and storytelling, including an English class that juxtaposed his work with that of James Baldwin and James Joyce.
More recently, Concordia University announced that the 16-time GRAMMY winner will be the focus of The Power of Hip Hop, It’s Bigger Than Us, a course examining the lyrical themes of Lamar’s works, such as loyalty, fatherhood, class and racial injustice.
"No artist speaks to this ethos louder and more intricately than King Kunta, the prince of Compton, Kendrick Lamar, 10 years after good kid, m.A.A.d. City dropped," said Yassin "Narcy" Alsalman, the Montreal hip-hop artist and Concordia Professor who developed the class which launches in winter 2023. “He showed us it was okay to work on yourself in front of the world and find yourself internally, that family always comes first, that community and collective missions are central to growth and that sometimes, you have to break free."
EDM Production, Techniques, and Applications
If you dream of hearing your own EDM tracks played at a massive music festival à la Marshmello, Steve Aoki and Skrillex, this all-in-one course at Boston's Berklee College of Music has you covered. Learn about the cultural origins of the various EDM styles — like techno, trance, drum and bass and more — and the techniques that artists use to achieve these sounds.
In between thought-provoking cultural seminars, students will receive lessons on how to operate the technologies necessary to create their own EDM masterpieces, including synths, digital audio workstations (DAW) and samplers.
Harry Styles And The Cult Of Celebrity
While many celebrity-focused courses center around sociology, the Harry’s House singer/songwriter has inspired his own digital history course at Texas State University in San Marcos: Harry Styles and the Cult of Celebrity: Identity, the Internet and European Pop Culture.
Developed by Dr. Louie Dean Valencia during lockdown, the class will cover Styles’ music along with topics like gender, sexual identity and class — but the singer-songwriter’s personal life is off limits. Stylers who are lucky enough to grab a spot in this first-ever university course dedicated to their fave can expect to revisit One Direction’s catalog for homework.
"I’ve always wanted to teach a history class that is both fun, but also covers a period that students have lived through and relate to," Dr. Valencia wrote in a Twitter post. "By studying the art, activism, consumerism and fandom around Harry Styles, I think we’ll be able to get to some very relevant contemporary issues. I think it’s so important for young people to see what is important to them reflected in their curriculum."
Global Hip Hop Culture(s): Hip Hop, Race, and Social Justice from South Central to South Africa
Since its inception, hip-hop has left a lasting mark on the world, influencing language, fashion, storytelling and beyond. At the University of California Los Angeles, students can learn about how the art form has shaped young minds as they analyze the various hip-hop scenes worldwide.
As part of a mission to establish the university as a leading center for hip-hop studies, UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies launched a hip-hop initiative featuring an artist-in-residence program, digital archives, and a series of postdoctoral fellowships. Chuck D, the founder of the barrier-breaking hip-hop group Public Enemy, was selected as the first artist-in-residence.
"As we celebrate 50 years of hip-hop music and cultural history, the rigorous study of the culture offers us a wealth of intellectual insight into the massive social and political impact of Black music, Black history and Black people on global culture — from language, dance, visual art and fashion to electoral politics, political activism and more," said associate director H. Samy Alim, who is leading the initiative.
The Music Of The Beatles
With their catchy two-minute pop hits, artsy record covers, headline-making fashions and groundbreaking use of studio tech, the Fab Five are among the most influential acts in music history. It’s no surprise, then, that they are the subjects of courses in a number of colleges and universities.
Boston’s Berklee College of Music offers The Music of Beatles, which digs into the group’s body of work as well as the music they penned for other acts. Alternatively, if you’re more interested in their post-breakup works, The Solo Careers of the Beatles dives into those efforts. Meanwhile, the University of Southern California takes a look at their music, careers and impact in The Beatles: Their Music and Their Times.
Symbolic Sisters: Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu
Whether you want to learn about craft, management, building a career, or marketing your work, the Clive Davis Institute at NYU offers an impressive curriculum for musicians and artists. With seminars focusing on the works of Prince, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, and J. Dilla, a unique duo stands out: Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse.
Framing the pair as "symbolic sisters," this two-credit seminar explores and compares how each songstress fused different genres and styles to forge a magnetic sound of their own. Winehouse rose to prominence for her retro spin on the sounds of Motown and Phil Spector and rebellious styling. A decade before "Back to Black" singer hit the mainstream, Badu — who is recognized as one of Winehouse's influences — rose to stardom thanks to her seamless blend of jazz, R&B, and hip-hop and captivating urban-bohemian style, creating a template for singers like SZA and Ari Lennox.
Selena: Music, Media and the Mexican American Experience
From ascending to the top of the male-dominated Tejano genre to helping introduce Latin music to the mainstream, Selena Quintanilla's impact continues to be felt decades after her untimely death. Artists including Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Victoria "La Mala" Ortiz, Becky G and Beyoncé cite the GRAMMY-winning "Queen of Tejano" as an influence.
Throughout the years, her legacy and cultural impact have been the focus of dozens of college courses. In 2023, Duke University continues this tradition with Selena: Music, Media and the Mexican American Experience. The course will explore the life, career and cultural impact of the beloved Tejano singer.
The Art of Punk: Sound, Aesthetics and Performance
Since emerging in the 1970s, punk rock has been viewed as a divisive, politically charged music genre. Its unique visual style — which can include leather jackets, tattoos, chunky boots and colorful hair — was absorbed into the mainstream in the '90s, where it continues to thrive (to the chagrin of hardcore punks everywhere). Over the decades, dozens of subgenres have cropped up and taken the spotlight — including riot grrrl and pop-punk — but very few have left the impact of the classic punk sound from the '70s and its anti-establishment themes.
If you're interested in learning more about the genre that inspired bands like Nirvana, check out Stanford University's The Art of Punk seminar, which explores the genre's visual and sonic origins, as well as its evolution and connections to race, class, and gender.
Meet Me @ The Altar Reveal The 4 "Badass" Female Artists Who Inspired Their Debut Album, 'Past // Present // Future'
20 Albums Turning 50 In 2023: 'Innervisions,' 'Dark Side Of The Moon' 'Catch A Fire' & More
1973 saw a slew of influential records released across genres — many of which broke barriers and set standards for music to come. GRAMMY.com reflects on 20 albums that, despite being released 50 years ago, continue to resonate with listeners today.
Fifty years ago, a record-breaking 600,000 people gathered to see the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers Band and the Band play Summer Jam at Watkins Glen. This is just one of many significant historical events that happened in 1973 — a year that changed the way music was seen, heard and experienced.
Ongoing advancements in music-making tech expanded the sound of popular and underground music. New multi-track technology was now standard in recording studios from Los Angeles to London. Artists from a variety of genres experimented with new synthesizers, gadgets like the Mu-Tron III pedal and the Heil Talk Box, and techniques like the use of found sounds.
1973 was also a year of new notables, where now-household names made their debuts. Among these auspicious entries: a blue-collar songwriter from the Jersey Shore, hard-working southern rockers from Jacksonville, Fla. and a sister group from California oozing soul.
Along a well-established format, '73 saw the release of several revolutionary concept records. The Eagles’ Desperado, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Lou Reed’s Berlin and the Who’s Quadrophenia are just a few examples that illustrate how artists used narrative techniques to explore broader themes and make bigger statements on social, political and economic issues — of which there were many.
On the domestic front, 1973 began with the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. Internationally, the Paris Peace Accords were signed — starting the long process to end the Vietnam War. An Oil crisis caused fuel prices to skyrocket in North America. Richard Nixon started his short-lived second term as president, which was marked by the Watergate scandal.
Politics aside, the third year of the '70s had it all: from classic- and southern-rock to reggae; punk to jazz; soul and R&B to country. Read on for 20 masterful albums with something to say that celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2023.
Band On The Run - Paul McCartney & Wings
Laid down at EMI’s studio in Lagos, Nigeria and released in December 1973, the third studio record by Paul Mcartney & Wings is McCartney’s most successful post-Beatles album. Its hit singles "Jet" and the title cut "Band on the Run" helped make the record the biggest-selling in 1974 in both Australia and Canada.
Band on the Run won a pair of GRAMMYS the following year: Best Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus and Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical. McCartney added a third golden gramophone for this record at the 54th awards celebration when it won Best Historical Album for the 2010 reissue. In 2013, Band on the Run was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame.
Head Hunters - Herbie Hancock
Released Oct. 13, Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters was recorded in just one week; its
four songs clock in at just over 40 minutes. That the album was not nominated in the jazz category, but instead Best Pop Instrumental Performance, demonstrates how Hancock was shifting gears.
Head Hunters showed Hancock moving away from traditional instrumentation and playing around with new synthesizer technology — especially the clavinet — and putting together a new band: the Headhunters. Improvisation marks this as a jazz record, but the phrasing, rhythms and dynamics of Hancock’s new quintet makes it equal parts soul and R&B with sprinkles of rock 'n' roll.
The album represented a commercial and artistic breakthrough for Hancock, going gold within months of its release. "Watermelon Man" and "Chameleon," which was nominated for a Best Instrumental GRAMMY Award in 1974, were later both frequently sampled by hip-hop artists in the 1990s.
Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. - Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen, 22, was the new kid in town in 1973. This debut was met with tepid reviews. Still, Greetings introduced Springsteen’s talent to craft stories in song and includes many characters The Boss would return to repeatedly in his career. The album kicks off with the singalong "Blinded by the Light," which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 100 four years later via a cover done by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. This was the first of two records Springsteen released in 1973; The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle arrived before the end of the year — officially introducing the E Street Band.
Innervisions - Stevie Wonder
This Stevie Wonder masterpiece shows an artist, in his early 20s, experimenting with new instrumentation such as TONTO (The Original New Timbral Orchestra) — the world’s largest synth — and playing all instruments on the now-anthemic "Higher Ground."
The song reached No.1 on the U.S. Hot R&B Singles Chart, and Innervisions peaked at No. 4. The album won three GRAMMYS the following year, including Album Of The Year. Wonder was the first Black artist to win this coveted golden gramophone. In 1989, Red Hot Chili Peppers kept the original funk, but injected the song with a lot of rock on their cover — the lead single from Mother’s Milk.
The Dark Side Of The Moon - Pink Floyd
Critics perennially place this Pink Floyd album, the band's eighth studio record, as one of the greatest of all-time. The Dark Side of the Moon hit No.1 and stayed on the Billboard charts for 63 weeks.
A sonic masterpiece marked by loops, synths, found sounds, and David Gilmour’s guitar bends, Dark Side of the Moon is also a concept record that explores themes of excessive greed on tracks like "Money." Ironically, an album lambasting consumerism was the top-selling record of the year and has eclipsed 45 million sales worldwide since its release. The album’s cover has also become one of the most recognized in the history of popular music.
Pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd - Lynyrd Skynyrd
This debut release features several of the northern Florida rockers' most beloved songs: "Gimme Three Steps," "Tuesday’s Gone" and "Simple Man." The record, which has since reached two-times platinum status with sales of more than two million, also includes the anthemic "Free Bird," which catapulted them to stardom. The song with its slow-build and definitive guitar solo and jam in the middle became Lynyrd Skynyrd's signature song that ended all their shows; it also became a piece of pop culture with people screaming for this song during concerts by other artists.
Houses Of The Holy - Led Zeppelin
The first Led Zeppelin record of all originals — and the first without a Roman numeral for a title — Houses of the Holy shows a new side of these British hardrockers. Straying from the blues and hard rock of previous records, Houses of the Holy features funk (“The Ocean” and “The Crunge”) and even hints of reggae (“D’Yer Mak’er”). This fifth studio offering from Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham also includes one of this writer’s personal Zeppelin favorites — "Over the Hills and Far Away.” The song was released as the album’s first U.S. single and reached No. 51 on the Billboard charts. Despite mixed reviews from critics, Houses of the Holy eventually achieved Diamond status for sales of more than 10 million. Interesting fact: the song “Houses of the Holy” actually appears on the band’s next record (Physical Graffiti).
Quadrophenia - The Who
The double-album rock opera followed the critical success of Tommy and Who’s Next. Pete Townshend composed all songs on this opus, which was later adapted into a movie. And, in 2015, classically-scored by Townshend’s partner Rachel Fuller for a new generation via a symphonic version (“Classic Quadrophenia”). The story chronicles the life of a young mod named Jimmy who lives in the seaside town of Brighton, England. Jimmy searches for meaning in a life devoid of significance — taking uppers, downers and guzzling gin only to discover nothing fixes his malaise. With sharp-witted songs, Townshend also tackles classicism. His band of musical brothers: Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon provide some of their finest recorded performances. The album reached second spot on the U.S. Billboard chart.
Berlin - Lou Reed
Produced by Bob Ezrin, Berlin is a metaphor. The divided walled city represents the divisive relationships and the two sides of Reed — on stage and off. The 10 track concept record chronicles a couple’s struggles with drug addiction, meditating on themes of domestic abuse and neglect. As a parent, try to listen to "The Kids" without shedding a tear. While the couple on the record are named Caroline and Jim, those who knew Reed’s volatile nature and drug dependency saw the parallels between this fictionalized narrative and the songwriter’s life.
Catch A Fire - Bob Marley & the Wailers
The original cover was enclosed in a sleeve resembling a Zippo lighter. Only 20,000 of this version were pressed. Even though it was creative and cool, cost-effective it was not — each individual cover had to be hand-riveted. The replacement, which most people know today, introduces reggae poet and prophet Robert Nesta Marley to the world. With a pensive stare and a large spliff in hand, Marley tells you to mellow out and listen to the tough sounds of his island home.
While Bob and his Wailers had been making music for nearly a decade and released several records in Jamaica, Catch a Fire was their coming out party outside the Caribbean. Released in April on Island Records, the feel-good reggae rhythms and Marley’s messages of emancipation resonated with a global audience. A mix of songs of protest ("Slave Driver," "400 years") and love ("Kinky Reggae"), Catch A Fire is also notable for "Stir it Up," a song American singer-songwriter Johnny Nash had made a Top 15 hit the previous year.
The New York Dolls - The New York Dolls
The New York Dolls burst on the club scene in the Big Apple, building a cult following with their frenetic and unpredictable live shows. The Dolls' hard rock sound and f-you attitude waved the punk banner before the genre was coined, and influenced the sound of punk rock for generations. (Bands like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and KISS, cite the New York Dolls as mentors.) Singer-songwriter Todd Rundgren — who found time to release A Wizard, A True Star this same year — produced this tour de force. From the opening "Personality Crisis," this five-piece beckons you to join this out-of-control train.
Aladdin Sane - David Bowie
This David Bowie record followed the commercial success of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars. Many critics unfairly compare the two. A career chameleon, with Aladdin Sane, Bowie shed the Ziggy persona and adopted another alter-ego. The title is a pun that means: "A Lad Insane." For the songwriter, this record represented an attempt to break free from the crazed fandom Ziggy Stardust had created.
A majority of the songs were written the previous year while Bowie toured the United States in support of Ziggy. Journal in hand, the artist traveled from city to city in America and the songs materialized. Most paid homage to what this “insane lad” observed and heard: from debauchery and societal decay ("Cracked Actor") to politics ("Panic in Detroit") to punk music ("Watch That Man"). Top singles on Aladdin Sane were: "The Jean Genie" and "Drive-In Saturday." Both topped the U.K. charts.
Faust IV -Faust
This fourth studio album — and the final release in this incarnation by this experimental avant-garde German ambient band — remains a cult classic. Recorded at the Manor House in Oxfordshire, England (Richard Branson’s new Virgin Records studio and the locale where Mike Oldfield crafted his famous debut Tubular Bells, also released in 1973), Faust IV opens with the epic 11-minute instrumental "Krautrock" — a song that features drones, clusters of tones and sustained notes to create a trance-like vibe. Drums do not appear in the song until after the seven minute mark.
The song is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the genre British journalists coined to describe bands like Faust, which musicians largely did not embrace. The rest of Faust IV is a sonic exploration worthy of repeated listens and a great place to start if you’ve ever wondered what the heck Krautrock is.
Brothers & Sisters - the Allman Brothers Band
Great art is often born from grief, and Brothers & Sisters is exemplary in this way. Founding member Duanne Allman died in 1971 and bassist Berry Oakley followed his bandmate to the grave a year later; he was killed in a motorcycle accident in November 1972. Following this pair of tragedies, the band carried on the only way they knew how: by making music.
With new members hired, Brothers & Sisters was recorded with guitarist Dicky Betts as the new de facto band leader. The Allman Brothers Band’s most commercially successful record leans into country territory from the southern rock of previous releases and features two of the band’s most popular songs: "Ramblin’ Man" and "Jessica." The album went gold within 48 hours of shipping and since has sold more than seven million copies worldwide.
Call Me - Al Green
Call Me is considered one of the greatest soul records of the 20th century and Green’s pièce de résistance. The fact this Al Green album features three Top 10 Billboard singles — "You Ought to Be With Me," "Here I Am" and the title track — helps explain why it remains a masterpiece. Beyond the trio of hits, the soul king shows his versatility by reworking a pair of country songs: Hank Williams’ "I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry," and Willie Nelson’s "Funny How Time Slips Away."
Killing Me Softly - Roberta Flack
This Roberta Flack album was nominated for three GRAMMY Awards and won two: Record Of The Year and Best Female Vocal Pop Performance at the 1974 GRAMMYs (it lost in the Album of the Year category to Innervisions). With equal parts soul and passion, Flack interprets beloved ballads that showcase her talent of taking others’ songs and reinventing them. Producer Joel Dorn assembled the right mix of players to back up Flack — adding to the album’s polished sound. Killing Me Softly has sold more than two million copies and, in 2020, Roberta Flack received the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award.
The album's title cut became a No.1 hit in three countries and, in 1996, the Fugees prominently featured Lauryn Hill on a version that surpassed the original: landing the No.1 spot in 21 countries. The album also includes a pair of well-loved covers: Leonard Cohen’s "Suzanne" and Janis Ian’s wistful "Jesse," which reached No. 30.
Bette Midler - Bette Middler
Co-produced by Arif Mardin and Barry Manilow, the self-titled second studio album by Bette Midler was an easy- listening experience featuring interpretations of both standards and popular songs. Whispers of gospel are mixed with R&B and some boogie-woogie piano, though Midler’s voice is always the star. The record opens with a nod to the Great American Songbook with a reworking of Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael’s "Skylark." The 10-song collection also features a take on Glenn Miller’s "In the Mood," and a divine cover of Bob Dylan’s "I Shall be Released." The record peaked at No. 6 on the U.S. charts.
Imagination - Gladys Knight & the Pips
Released in October, Imagination was Gladys Knight & the Pips' first album with Buddha Records after leaving Motown, and features the group’s only No. 1 Billboard hit: "Midnight Train to Georgia." The oft-covered tune, which won a GRAMMY the following year, and became the band’s signature, helped the record eclipse a million in sales, but it was not the only single to resonate. Other timeless, chart-topping songs from Imagination include "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me," and "I’ve Got to Use My Imagination."
The Pointer Sisters - The Pointer Sisters
The three-time GRAMMY-winning Pointer Sisters arrived on the scene in 1973 with this critically-acclaimed self-titled debut. Then a quartet, the group of sisters from Oakland, California made listeners want to shake a tail feather with 10 songs that ranged from boogie-woogie to bebop. Their sisterly harmonies are backed up by the San Francisco blues-funk band the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils. The record opens with "Yes We Can," a hypnotic groove of a song written by Allen Toussaint which was a Top 15 hit alongside another cover, Willie Dixon’s "Wang Dang Doodle."
Behind Closed Doors - Charlie Rich
This pop-leaning country record of orchestral ballads, produced by Billy Sherrill, made Rich rich. The album has surpassed four million in sales and remains one of the genre’s best-loved classics. The album won Charlie Rich a GRAMMY the following year for Best Country Vocal Performance Male and added four Country Music Awards. Behind Closed Doors had several hits, but the title track made the most impact. The song written by Kenny O’Dell, and whose title was inspired by the Watergate scandal, was the first No.1 hit for Rich. It topped the country charts where it spent 20 weeks in 1973. It was also a Billboard crossover hit — reaching No. 15 on the Top 100 and No. 8 on the Adult Contemporary charts.
1972 Was The Most Badass Year In Latin Music: 11 Essential Albums From Willie Colón, Celia Cruz, Juan Gabriel & Others
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.
The Rise Of Underground House: How Artists Like Fisher & Acraze Have Taken Tech House, Other Electronic Genres From Indie To EDC