meta-scriptTom Petty named 2017 MusiCares Person of the Year | GRAMMY.com
Tom Petty

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Tom Petty named 2017 MusiCares Person of the Year

Three-time GRAMMY winner to be honored for his creative accomplishments and artist advocacy and charitable work; GRAMMY Week gala to take place in Los Angeles Feb. 10, 2017

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

Tom Petty will be honored as the 2017 MusiCares Person of the Year in Los Angeles on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, two nights prior to the 59th Annual GRAMMY Awards. Proceeds from the 27th annual benefit gala dinner and concert will provide essential support for MusiCares, which ensures music people have a place to turn in times of financial, medical and personal need.

A three-time GRAMMY winner, Petty is being honored in recognition of his significant creative accomplishments, his career-long interest in defending artists' rights and the charitable work he has undertaken throughout his career, which has notably focused on the homeless population in Los Angeles.

"Tom burst into our musical consciousness and never let go," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy and MusiCares. "His brand of rock and roll benefits from a celebratory rebelliousness, infectious rhythms and unforgettable lyrics that are incised in our imaginations. His artistic talents coupled with his quiet philanthropy make him a great MusiCares Person of the Year honoree, and we are very fortunate to have the support of our Board, past honorees and the musical community around this special event."

"I am so very pleased to be honored as the MusiCares Person of the Year. I have so much respect for this organization, which really does care about the people in our industry," said Petty. "I myself know many people who MusiCares has aided in desperate situations. Again, let me say this is a true honor."

"Tom Petty is an icon whose incomparable artistry has provided inspiration to fans and musicians all over the world," said Alexandra Patsavas, Chair of the MusiCares Foundation Board. "To honor him with this tribute is so fitting, and we certainly look forward to an exciting and extraordinary evening."

A Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Petty has won GRAMMYs for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for 1989 for Traveling Wilburys Volume One, a collaboration with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison; Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for 1995 for "You Don't Know How It Feels"; and Best Long Form Music Video for 2008 for the documentary Runnin' Down A Dream. In each of his five decades as a recording artist, Petty has charted albums in the Top 5 on the Billboard 200. His most recent recording with Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, 2014's Hypnotic Eye, entered at No. 1.

The MusiCares Person of the Year tribute ceremony is one of the most prestigious events held during GRAMMY Week. The celebration culminates with the 59th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. The telecast will be broadcast live on the CBS Television Network at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

 

David Bryan, Jon Bon Jovi and Tico Torres attend the UK Premiere of "Thank You and Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story" on April 17, 2024 in London, England
David Bryan, Jon Bon Jovi and Tico Torres attend the UK Premiere of "Thank You and Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story"

Photo: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Disney+

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10 Facts About Jon Bon Jovi: A Friendship With Springsteen, Philanthropy, Football Fanaticism & More

Ahead of the band's new album 'Forever,' out June 7, and a new Hulu documentary, "Thank you, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story," read on for 10 facts about the GRAMMY-winning group and its MusiCares Person Of The Year frontman.

GRAMMYs/Jun 6, 2024 - 06:55 pm

Bon Jovi have officially been in the cultural conversation for five decades — and it looks like we'll never say goodbye. 

The band's self-titled debut album was unleashed upon the world in 1984, and lead single "Runaway" made some waves. Yet the New Jersey group didn't truly break through until their third album, the 12 million-selling Slippery When Wet. By the late 1980s, they were arguably the biggest rock band in the world, selling out massive shows in arenas and stadiums. 

Since, Bon Jovi releases have consistently topped album charts (six of their studio albums hit No. 1). A big reason for their continued success is that, unlike a majority of their ‘80s peers, frontman Jon Bon Jovi made sure that they adapted to changing times while retaining the spirit of their music — from the anthemic stomp of 1986’s "Bad Medicine" to the Nashville crossover of 2005’s "Who Says You Can’t Go Home." It also doesn’t hurt that the 2024 MusiCares Person Of The Year has aged very gracefully; his winning smile and charismatic personality ever crush-worthy.

Their fifth decade rocking the planet has been marked by many other milestones: The release of  a four-part Hulu documentary, "Thank you, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story"; Bon Jovi's 16th studio album Forever, and fan hopes for the return of original guitarist Richie Sambora who left unexpectedly in 2013. Despite all of these positive notes, there is an ominous cloud hanging over the group as their singer had to undergo vocal surgery following disappointing, consistently off-key performances on the group's 2022 U.S. tour. Even afterward, he remains unsure whether he’ll be able to tour again. But Bon Jovi remains popular and with Sambora expressing interest in a reunion, it's plausible that we could see them back on stage again somehow.

Jon Bon Jovi has also had quite a multifaceted career spun off of his success in music, as shown by the following collection of fascinating facts.

Jon Bon Jovi Sung With Bruce Springsteen When He Was 17

By the time he was in high school, Jon Bongiovi (his original, pre-fame last name) was already fronting his first serious group. The Atlantic City Expressway was a 10-piece with a horn section that performed well-known tunes from Jersey acts like Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.

They regularly played The Fast Lane, and one night Bruce Springsteen was in the audience. To Bon Jovi’s surprise, The Boss jumped onstage to join them. The two later became good friends — during his MusiCares performance, Bon Jovi introduced Springsteen as "my mentor, my friend, my brother, my hero."

Jon Recorded Bon Jovi’s First Hit Before The Band Formed

Although "Runaway" was the debut single and lone Top 40 hit from Bon Jovi's first two albums, it was recorded as a professional demo back in 1982. 

Bon Jovi got a gig as a gopher at Power Station, the famed studio co-owned by his second cousin Tony Bongiovi where artists like the Rolling Stones, Diana Ross, and David Bowie recorded. (He watched even watched Bowie and Freddie Mercury record the vocals for "Under Pressure.")

The future rockstar cut "Runaway" (which was co-written mainly by George Karak) and other demos with session musicians — his friend, guitarist Aldo Nova, Rick Springfield/John Waite guitarist Tim Pierce, Springsteen keyboardist Roy Bittan, bassist Hugh McDonald (a future Bon Jovi member), and Scandal drummer Frankie LaRocca. The song first appeared on a WAPP compilation under his name, but then it was placed on Bon Jovi’s debut album. When the video for "Runway" was created nearly two years later, members of Bon Jovi were miming to other people’s performances. 

Although it is a classic, original guitarist Richie Sambora hates it and never wants to play it again.

He Eloped With His High School Sweetheart In April 1989

During the band’s world tour in support of New Jersey, Bon Jovi and Dorothea Hurley spontaneously eloped in a quickie wedding in Vegas. His bandmates and management were shocked to find this out; the latter probably feared that his ineligible bachelor status would harm their popularity with their ardent female fans. But it simply played more into his more wholesome image that differed from other hard rockers of the time. 

In May 2024, Bon Jovi’s son Jake secretly married "Stranger Things" actor Millie Bobby Brown. It was like history repeating itself, except this time family was involved.

Listen: Revisit Jon Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits & Deep Cuts Ahead Of MusiCares' Person Of The Year 2024 Gala

The Bongiovi Family Is Part Of The Bon Jovi Family

Back in the ‘80s, parents often didn’t like their kids’ music. However, Bon Jovi’s parents completely supported his. Mother Carol Bongiovi often chaperoned his early days when he was an underaged kid playing local clubs and bars in New Jersey. Father Jon Sr. was the group’s hair stylist until their third album, Slippery When Wet. He created his son's signature mane

Jon’s brother Matthew started as a production assistant in the band’s organization, then worked for their management before becoming his brother’s head of security and now his tour manager. His other brother Anthony became the director of a few Bon Jovi concert films and promo clips. He’s also directed concert films for Slayer and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Bon Jovi Is A Regular In Television & Film

After writing songs for the Golden Globe-winning "Young Guns II soundtrack (released as the solo album Blaze Of Glory) and getting a cameo in the Western’s opening, Bon Jovi was bitten by the acting bug. He studied with acclaimed acting coach Harold Guskin in the early ‘90s, then appeared as the romantic interest of Elizabeth Perkins in 1995's Moonlight and Valentino.

In other movies, Bon Jovi played a bartender who’s a recovering alcoholic (Little City), an ex-con turning over a new leaf (Row Your Boat), a failed father figure (Pay It Forward), a suburban dad and pot smoker (Homegrown), and a Navy Lieutenant in WWII (U-571). The band’s revival in 2000 slowed his acting aspirations, but he appeared for 10 episodes of "Ally McBeal," playing her love interest in 2002. 

Elsewhere on the silver screen, the singer has also portrayed a vampire hunter (Vampiros: Los Muertos), a duplicitous professor (Cry Wolf), the owner of a women’s hockey team (Pucked), and a rock star willing to cancel a tour for the woman he loves (New Year’s Eve). He hasn’t acted since 2011, but who knows when he might make a guest appearance?

Jon Bon Jovi Once Co-Owned A Football Team

In 2004, Bon Jovi became one of the co-founders and co-majority owner of the Philadelphia Soul, which were part of the Arena Football League (AFL). (Sambora was a minority shareholder.) The team name emerged in a satirical scene from "It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia" during which Danny DeVito’s character tries to buy the team for a paltry sum and twice butchers the singer’s name.

Jon stuck with the team until 2009, a year after they won Arena Bowl XXII, defeating the San Jose SaberCats. He then set his eyes on a bigger prize, the Buffalo Bills, aligning himself with a group of Toronto investors in 2011. One of his biggest competitors? Donald Trump, who ran a smear campaign alleging that the famed singer would move the team to Toronto. 

In the end, neither man purchased the team as they were outbid by Terry and Kim Pegula, who still own the Bills today.

Jon & Richie Sambora Wrote Songs For Other Artists

Having cranked out massive hits with songwriter Desmond Child, Bon Jovi and Sambora decided to write or co-write songs for and with other artists. 

In 1987, they co-wrote and produced the Top 20 hit "We All Sleep Alone" with Child for Cher, and also co-wrote the Top 40 hit "Notorious" with members of Loverboy. In 1989, the duo paired up again Loverboy guitarist Paul Dean for his solo rocker "Under The Gun" and bequeathed the New Jersey outtake "Does Anybody Really Fall in Love Anymore?" (co-written with Child and Diane Warren) to Cher. 

The Bon Jovi/Sambora song "Peace In Our Time" was recorded by Russian rockers Gorky Park. In 1990, Paul Young snagged the New Jersey leftover "Now and Forever," while the duo penned "If You Were in My Shoes" with Young, though neither song was released. In 2009, Bon Jovi and Sambora were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame for their contributions to music.

Jon Bon Jovi Once Ran His Own Record Label

For a brief time in 1991, he ran his own record label, Jambco, which was distributed through Bon Jovi’s label PolyGram Records. The only two artists he signed were Aldo Nova and Billy Falcon, a veteran singer/songwriter who became Bon Jovi's songwriting partner in the 2000s. Neither of their albums (Aldo Nova’s Blood On The Bricks and Billy Falcon’s Pretty Blue World) were big sellers, and the label folded quickly when they began losing money.

Still, the experience gave Bon Jovi the chance to learn about the music business. That experience helped after he fired original manager Doc McGhee in 1991 and took over his band’s managerial reins until 2015.

Bon Jovi's Vocal Issues Aren't New

Although Jon Bon Jovi's vocal problems have become a major issue recently, they stem back to the late 1980s. It's doubtful as to whether Jon had proper vocal training for a rock band at the start. 

The group did 15-month tours to support both the Slippery When Wet and New Jersey albums. Near the end of the grueling Slippery tour, Bon Jovi was getting steroid injections because his voice was suffering.

While his voice held up into the 2000s, it has become apparent over the last decade that his singing is rougher than it used to be. As shown in the Hulu new documentary, the singer has been struggling to maintain his voice. It’s natural for older rock singers to lose some range — it’s been very rare to hear him sing any of the high notes in "Livin’ On A Prayer" over the last 20 years — but he admitshe is unsure whether he can ever tour again, even with recent surgery.

Bon Jovi Has Been A Philanthropist For Over Three Decades

Back in the 1980s, the upbeat Bon Jovi made it clear that they were not going to be a toned-down political band. But in the ‘90s, he and the band toned down their look, evolved their sound, and offered a more mature outlook on life. 

Reflecting this evolved viewpoint,  the band started an annual tradition of playing a December concert in New Jersey to raise money for various charitable causes; the concert series began in 1991 and continued with the band or Jon solo through at least 2015. The group have played various charitable concert events over the years including the Twin Towers Relief Benefit, Live 8 in Philadelphia, and The Concert For Sandy Relief. 

By the late 2000s, Jon and Dorothea founded the JBJ Soul Kitchen to serve meals at lower costs to people who cannot afford them. COVID-19 related food shortages led the couple to found  the JBJ Soul Kitchen Food Bank. Their JBJ Soul Foundation supports affordable housing and has rebuilt and refurbished homes through organizations like Project H.O.M.E., Habitat For Humanity, and Rebuilding Together.

While he may be a superstar, Jon Bon Jovi still believes in helping others. For his considerable efforts, he was honored as the 2024 MusiCares Person Of The Year during 2024 GRAMMY Week.

Listen: Revisit Jon Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits & Deep Cuts Ahead Of MusiCares' Person Of The Year 2024 Gala

Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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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.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

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."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

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.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

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." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

10 Essential Facts To Know About GRAMMY-Winning Rapper J. Cole

Display at Power of Song Exhibit
A selection of items on display at Power of Song Exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum.

Photo: Rebecca Sapp

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5 Things We Learned From GRAMMY Museum's New The Power Of Song Exhibit, A Celebration Of Songwriters From Tom Petty To Taylor Swift

Nile Rodgers, Jimmy Jam, Smokey Robinson and more provide deep insights into their hit collaborations and creative process at GRAMMY Museum's The Power of Song: A Songwriters Hall of Fame Exhibit, open from April 26 through Sept. 4.

GRAMMYs/Apr 26, 2023 - 08:23 pm

Since its founding in 1969, the Songwriters Hall of Fame has been celebrating the great songwriters and composers of our time. In 2010, it found a physical home at Downtown Los Angeles' GRAMMY Museum.

Now, the GRAMMY Museum is adding to that legacy with a special expanded exhibit, which dives deep into the history of songwriting and recorded music in the United States — as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame and its inductees' role in it. Whether you're a songwriter or musician who loves the creative process, a history nerd, or simply a music lover, this exhibit is for you.

When you enter The Power Of Song, you'll hear the voices of legendary Songwriter Hall of Fame inductees and GRAMMY winners — including Nile Rodgers, Carole King, Diane Warren, Smokey Robinson and Jimmy Jam — discussing their creative process and some of the biggest songs they've written. Take a seat on the couch to absorb all their wisdom in the deeply informative and inspiring original short film.

Turn to the right, and you'll find a timeline across the entire wall, explaining the origins and key points around songwriting and recorded music in the U.S. On the other wall, pop on the headphones provided to enjoy a video of memorable Hall of Fame ceremony performances. One interactive video interface near the entrance allows you to hear "song highlights," and another allows you to explore the entire Songwriters Hall of Fame database.

The exhibit is filled with a treasure trove of handwritten song lyrics from Taylor Swift, Cyndi Lauper, Tom Petty and many more, as well as iconic artifacts, including Daft Punk's helmets, a classy Nile Rodgers GRAMMY look, and guitars from Bill Withers, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp and Toby Keith.

Below, take a look at five things we learned from The Power Of Song: A Songwriters Hall Of Fame Exhibit, which will be at the GRAMMY Museum from April 26 through Sept. 4.

Daft Punk Rerecorded "Get Lucky" To Fit Nile Rodgers' Funky Guitar

Legendary funk pioneer and superproducer Nile Rodgers is the current Chairman of the SHOF and has an active presence at the exhibit. One case features the disco-esque lime green Dior tuxedo Rodgers wore to the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, along with the shiny metallic helmets of French dance duo Daft Punk, who collaborated with Rodgers on their GRAMMY-winning 2013 album, Random Access Memories.

Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk and Rodgers had forged a friendship and been wanting to collab for years prior to 2013's Record Of The Year-winning smash "Get Lucky." When they finally connected and Bangalter and de Homem-Christo played the CHIC founder the demo for "Get Lucky," he asked to hear it again with everything muted except the drum track, so he could create the perfect guitar lick for it.

Bangalter and de Homem-Christo decided to essentially re-record the whole song to fit Rodgers' guitar, which joyously drives the track — and carried it to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, Daft Punk's first Top 5 hit.

Nile Rodgers Display at GRAMMY Museum

***Photo:** Rebecca Sapp*

Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis Set Up Their Studio The "Wrong" Way Because Of Prince

In the exhibit film, Jimmy Jam tells several stories about working with — and learning from — Prince. He recalls how he and Terry Lewis watched Prince work and record everything "in the red," so they set up their Minneapolis studio to follow his lead. A sound engineer told them it was too loud, but that ended up being the sound that artists like Janet Jackson and Usher came to them for. It was a "happy mistake," as Jam put it, that helped their legendary careers as a powerhouse production duo take off.

Prince's dogmatic, tireless work ethic also rubbed off on the powerhouse pair. One rehearsal, the Purple One kept pressing Jam to do more, which resulted in him playing two instruments, singing and hitting the choreography from behind his keyboard. "He saw that I could do more than I thought I could; he saw me better than I saw myself," he reflected.

"God Bless America" Composer Irving Berlin Didn't Read Music

In his 50 year-career, Irving Berlin wrote over 1000 songs, many of which defined American popular music for the better part of the 20th century. Along with penning "God Bless America," "White Christmas," "Puttin' on the Ritz," and "There's No Business Like Show Business" (among many other classics), he wrote 17 full Broadway musical scores and contributed songs to six more plays.

Berlin also wrote scores for early Hollywood musicals starring the likes of Ginger Rodgers, Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe, and Bing Crosby. He made a lasting, indelible mark on music, theater, film and American culture writ large.

Rather astonishingly, the widely celebrated American Tin Pan Alley-era composer was self-taught and didn't read sheet music. His family immigrated to New York from Imperial Russia when he was 5 years old, and when he was just 13, his father died, so he busked on the streets and worked as a singing waiter to help his family out.

In 1907, at 19, he had his first song published, and just four years later penned his first international hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Berlin had a natural musicality and played music by ear in the key of F-sharp, with the help of his trusted upright transposing piano, a rare instrument that had a mechanism allowing him to shift into different keys. His "trick piano," as he called it, where many of his unforgettable songs first came to life, is on display at the exhibit.

Read More: GRAMMY Rewind: Smokey Robinson Accepts A GRAMMY On Behalf Of The Temptations In 1973

Smokey Robinson Didn't Expect "My Girl" To Become A Timeless Hit

Smokey Robinson was an important part of Motown's hit-making factory as a singer, songwriter and producer. In the exhibit film, he discusses "My Girl," one of his classic tunes, which he wrote and produced for the Temptations in 1965.

"I had no idea it would become what it would become," he said.

He says that people often ask him why he didn't record the unforgettable song with his group the Miracles instead of "giving it away" to the Temptations, but he never regretted his decision. Instead, he's honored to have created music that stands the test of time and means so much to so many people.

Robinson joked that the Temptations' then-lead singer David Ruffin's gruff voice scared girls into going out with him. Really, he loved Ruffin's voice, and thought he'd sound great singing a sweet love song like "My Girl." Safe to say he was right.

After World War II, Pop Music Changed Forever

Prior to World War II, American music operated as a singular mainstream market, and New York's Tin Pan Alley songwriters competed to make the next pop or Broadway hit. In a post-World War II America, especially when the early Baby Boomer generation became teenagers and young adults in the '60s and '70s, tastes changed and new styles of pop and pop songwriting emerged. As rock shook up popular culture, Tin Pan Alley gave way to a new era of young songwriters, many who worked out of just two buildings in midtown Manhattan, 1619 Broadway (the Brill Building) and 1650 Broadway.

In this richly creative and collaborative environment, powerhouse songwriting duos began to emerge and reshape pop music, challenging and balancing each other — and creating a ton of hits in the process. The hit-making duos of this diversified pop era included Burt Bacharach and Hal David (Dionne Warrick's "That's What Friends Are For"), Carole King and Gerry Goffin (Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion"), Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'") and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and the Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me," both in collaboration with Phil Spector). In fact, there are far too many classics penned by these four prolific songwriter duos to list here.

While there are still songwriters that pen big hit after hit for pop stars (Max Martin is still at it, as is his protege Oscar Görres), the dynamics in the industry have continued to shift with singers taking on more creative power themselves. Today's pop stars — including Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift — have found success co-writing with their own trusted teams of songwriters and producers. But as this new exhibit shows, it doesn't matter who is behind the pen — the power of song is mighty.

Meet Tobias Jesso Jr., The First-Ever GRAMMY Winner For Songwriter Of The Year

Franc Moody
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 

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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.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

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

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

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

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

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.

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