Soul, Motown, and Funk
Originally, soul was a conscious return to R & B's gospel roots. Soul gradually turned secular as black crooners Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and Marvin Gaye wrote songs that preached messages of love and worship without specific reference to God or Christ. Aretha Franklin was also a key figure in soul's secular development even though she was heavily influenced by gospel legend Mahalia Jackson. James Brown was another towering figure in soul music. In time, he would be called the Godfather of Soul.
Motown is a type of soul music that originated from Detroit, Michigan, which was known as “Motor City” or Mo-town for short. Female singing groups such as the Supremes and the Marvelettes dominated early Motown, and on bass, James Jamerson (1936–1983) pioneered a whole new style of playing. His punchy, deep-pocketed grooves (plucked mostly with the index finger) have influenced generations of R & B, funk, soul, and rock bassists.
Jamerson played memorable bass lines on songs such as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Gladys Knight and the Pips, “You Can't Hurry Love” by the Supremes, “My Girl” by the Temptations, “For Once in My Life” by Stevie Wonder, and dozens of other hits. However, Jamerson wouldn't get the recognition he deserved until he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. Virtually all of the bass lines you will learn in this chapter have some connection to Jamerson and his innovations.
Funk is a broad musical category. Virtually any music — from Miles Davis to the Average White Band — could be labeled funk. For many listeners, James Brown was funk's greatest ambassador. He scored big with hits such as “I Got You (I Feel Good),” “Papa's Got a Brand New Bag,” and “Sex Machine.”
Another significant funk group was Parliament Funkadelic, the originators of the popular P-Funk sound. Led by George Clinton, Parliament Funk-adelic's style was greatly enhanced by the sleek, adventurous bass playing of Bootsy Collins. Collins was one of the first bassists to use the Mu-Tron envelope filter (synthesizer sound effect) on his bass. He also used a unique slap bass technique that included whole-hand slaps on the bass. Humorously, Collins likened this slap technique to spanking a baby's bottom. You will learn more about slap techniques later in the chapter.