Bands / Listening To Music

The 50+ Best Funk Bands & Artists Of All Time

Since its emergence in the mid-1960s, the funk genre has seen a huge amount of change and innovation, from classic funk through to the genre’s many derivatives.

It’s also (quite rightly) one of the most popular genres of all time – no doubt due to the incredible bands and artists that have shaped the genre over the last six decades.

In this article, our team of writers-slash-funk-music-lovers have put together an ultimate list of (what we feel to be) the 50+ best funk bands and artists of all time, including an insight into what makes each one so great.

Let’s get started!

The Bands & Artists

50. Big Sam’s Funky Nation

Formed: 2000
Best Known Track: Funky Donkey

Sammie Williams (Big Sam) has been leading his Funky Nation since 2000. He had a recurring role in Treme, the HBO series following New Orleans residents rebuilding their lives post-Katrina. 

49. Trombone Shorty

Born: 1986
Best Known Track: Hold Up, Wait a Minute

Troy Andrews has been producing and playing music since his first appearance on stage at four alongside Bo Diddley. He’s led numerous groups and appeared as a sideman on a plethora of albums.  

48. Galactic

Formed: 1994
Best Known Track: Into The Deep (feat. Macy Gray)

A jam band of the finest order from New Orleans, Galactic incorporates funk, jazz, hip hop, brass band, and electronic into an ever-changing style. They are a mainstay of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. During Lundi Gras, they play until the sun rises on the day of Mardi Gras.  

47. Vulfpeck

Formed: 2011
Best Known Track: Back Pocket

Vulfpeck’s sound is a bit of a throwback. They’ve channelled their sound into a kind of “German version of Motown,” blending everything that was so great about the smooth vibes of classic ’70s funk, soul, and R&B. 

46. Fred Wesley

Born: 1943
Best Known Track: People Get Up and Drive Your Funky Soul

Fred Wesley will always be remembered for helming James Brown’s tight backing band, the J.B.s. But Fred Wesley’s orchestrations are full-on funk storms that make people get up and drive their funky souls. 

45. Maceo Parker

Born: 1943
Best Known Track: Yes We Can Can

Maceo Parker has played with some of the great names in funk. As a soul-jazz sax player, he’s played with James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, and Prince. Since the ’90s, though, he’s toured under his own name.

44. Mark Ronson

Born: 1975
Best Known Track: Uptown Funk (feat. Bruno Mars)

Ronson is a producer, D.J., and songwriter who’s collaborated with some of the biggest names in modern music: Amy Winehouse, Liley Cyrus, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, and Adele have all called on him to help write and produce their albums. Uptown Funk earned him a second Grammy Award. 

43. Thundercat

Formed: 2000
Best Known Track: Funny Thing

Before heading out with Thundercat, Stephen Bruner was the bass player with skate-punk group Suicidal Tendencies. With Thundercat, Bruner blends jazz fusion with funk, R&B, and hip-hop.

42. Shareef Keys & The Groove

Formed: Unknown
Best Known Track: Plant Mom

Shareef Keys is one of the most energetic funk musicians currently performing today. They embody the energy, fashion, and vibrant music of bands like Parliament. 

41. Tank and The Bangas

Formed: 2011
Best Known Track: Big

Tarriona “Tank” Ball fronts this Grammy-nominated New Orleans funk and R&B band. His unique voice – which can wail, scold, and soliloquize – has established this outfit as one of the best funk groups currently playing. 

40. Lion Babe

Formed: 2015
Best Known Track: Treat Me Like Fire

Jillian Hervey and Lucas Goodman make up this New York-based group. Their sound is spicy, soul-inspired, and often leaning heavily towards funk. Their debut album Begin was released in 2016.

39. Anderson .Paak

Born: 1986
Best Known Track: Leave the Door Open

In 2011, .Paak was living on the street with zero job insight. In 2015, he was in the studio with none other than Dr. Dre. His style encompasses everything from funk and trap to LoFi vibes. 

38. Deltaphonic

Formed: 2016
Best Known Track: Liars

New Orleans has spawned some of the biggest names on this list, and they keep on pumping out fresh faces into the funk universe. Deltaphonic is gritty and blues-inflected, full of funky swagger and originality. 

37. Miss Velvet and The Blue Wolf

Formed: Unknown
Best Known Track: Super Bon Bon

The in-your-face, badass sound of Miss Velvet and the Blue Wolf is a fresh take on funk music, something even the old guard welcomes. They’ve opened for George Clinton several times. 

36. Dumpstaphunk

Formed: 2000
Best Known Track: Do You

What started out as a jam band quickly became one of the most vital funk groups currently performing. They are a diverse group based out of New Orleans and a mainstay of that great cities Jazz and Heritage Festival. 

35. Phat Funktion

Best Known Track: You Want it All

A phenomenal funk band from Madison, Wisconsin. Phat Phunktion is a nine-piece funk, soul, R&B, jazz outfit that just celebrated its 25th anniversary. 

34. The Motet

Formed: 1998
Best Known Track: Nemesis

Funk, jazz, Afrobeat, call them what you like. This Colorado-based funk band grew out of the late ’90s obsession with high-energy live shows and cross-pollinating sounds. 

33. Lettuce

Formed: 1992
Best Known Track: Phyllis

Lettuce is quite the salad of sounds. Mixing funk, fusion, hip-hop, New Orleans style R&B, rock, and blues, this collective has released some of the best funk tracks of the 90’s and early noughties. 

32. Billy Preston

Born: 1946
Best Known Track: Get Back

From his earliest days as a keyboardist to Mahalia Jackson, Billy Preston was a prodigy before having a career that spanned both acting and music. In addition to his smash success as a solo artist, he was also a seasoned session musician, backing The Beatles on their Let It Be album.

31. CHIC

Formed: 1977
Best Known Track: Le Freak

Lush groove and funky hooks have allowed CHIC to transcend the genre of late ’70s disco and funk. They played an essential role in the emergence of hip-hop with tracks like Good Times.

30. The Time

Formed: 1981
Best Known Track: Jungle Love

Morris Day leads this dynamic group who, along with Prince and Jesse Johnson, were pioneers of that blend of soul, funk, and pop known as the Minneapolis sound

29. Heatwave

Formed: 1975
Best Known Track: Boogie Nights

The disco funk era is incomplete without Heatwave. They could do smooth ballads just as well as they could groovy beats. Johnnie Wilder formed the group after serving in West Germany in the U.S. Army. 

28. Dazz Band

Formed: 1977
Best Known Track: Let It Whip

One of the most popular funk groups of the early ’80s, Dazz Band formed in Cleveland by merging two pre-existing bands – Mother Braintree and Bell Telefunk. 

27. Brick

Formed: 1972
Best Known Track: Dazz

In the late ’70s, popular music was a soup of funk, soul, jazz, hip-hop and disco. Brick was one of the bands that merged the best of disco and the best of jazz to create some of the funkiest beats of the decade. 

26. Rufus

Formed: 1970
Best Known Track: Ain’t Nobody

Rufus launched the career of Chaka Kahn, who went on to have massive success as a solo artist. But her roots lay in Chicago-based funk. Rufus began their string of hits with their 1973 self-titled debut. 

25. Con Funk Shun

Formed: 1972
Best Known Track: Chase Me

One of funk’s most potent and exuberant acts, Con Funk Shun was formed in 1969. They produced the hit singles Fun in 1977 and Chase Me in 1979. 

24. Lakeside

Formed: 1969
Best Known Track: Fantastic Voyage

Before finding success with Solar Records and their hit single, It’s All the Way Live, Lakeside was a Motown group finding little success. But the 1980s would change all that as they stormed the charts with Fantastic Voyage and other funk hits. 

23. Herbie Hancock

Born: 1940
Best Known Track: Cantaloupe Island 

Hancock is a genius who knows no musical bounds. Before exploring the possibilities of jazz-funk in the 1970s, Hancock was already a canonical jazz figure. His funk-inflected albums are 1975s Man-Child and 1976s Secrets. 

22. Slave

Formed: 1975
Best Known Track: Slide

One of the hottest pure funk bands of the 1970s, Ohio’s Slave got their first big hit with their 1977 single Slide. They would produce several top ten R&B and funk hits throughout the 80s like Snap Shot and Watching You.

21. Joe Tex

Born: 1935
Best Known Track: Ain’t Gonna Bump No More

Joe Tex vs. James Brown may be the most intense feuds to come out of any music scene. But this well-known tension may have also spurred some of the best out of both artists. Joe Tex was a pioneer of the genre.

20. The Meters

Formed: 1966
Best Known Track: Cissy Strut

New Orleans funk is only a thing because of the Meters. Not only did they produce numerous hit records for themselves, but they served as the backing band for many of funk-producer Allen Toussaint’s projects.

19. Cameo

Formed: 1974
Best Known Track: Word Up!

Like many funk groups, Cameo had an ever-evolving lineup. Known for their horn-powered R&B hits during the 1970s, Camero later succeeded with funk-pop jams like Word Up! and Candy

18. Curtis Mayfield

Formed: 1956
Best Known Track: Move on Up

Entirely self-taught, Curtis Mayfield pioneered soul and funk music in his native Chicago. He was also a prominent voice in the Civil Rights movement. His soundtrack for the 1972 film Superfly launched him to stardom.

17. Zapp

Formed: 1977
Best Known Track: Computer Love

Also sometimes referred to by the name Zapp Band or Zapp & Roger, this funk band is closely associated with Parliament-Funkadelic. Zapp would work closely with their members during their early years. Zapp’s eponymous debut album saw release in 1980. 

16. The Brothers Johnson 

Formed: 1975
Best Known Track: Strawberry Letter 23

Blending R&B and funk found the Brothers Johnson success in the mid-70s and early ’80s. Three of their singles topped the R&B charts: I’ll Be Good to You, Stomp!, and Strawberry Letter 23. 

15. The Gap Band

Formed: 1974
Best Known Track: Outstanding

Charlie, Ronnie, and Robert Wilson named it The Gap Band after three streets in Tulsa, Oklahoma: Greenwood, Archer, and Pine. This is in remembrance of the Tulsa race massacre of 1921.

14. Tower of Power

Formed: 1968
Best Known Track: What Is Hip?

Tower of Power has seen several lineup changes throughout the years, but Lenny Williams – who fronted at the band for a little over a year – will forever be remembered as its best known. Eight of their songs charted on the Billboard Hot 100. 

13. Parliament-Funkadelic

Formed: 1955
Best Known Track: Not Just Knee Deep

You’ll find George Clinton’s fingerprints all over this list. As a solo artist, he helmed some of funk history’s most interesting, outlandish, and influential bands. Parliament-Funkadelic is still active today, pioneering Afrofuturism in a post-punk, post-disco world. 

12. Rick James

Formed: 1948
Best Known Track: Super Freak

James got his start after deserting the draft in Toronto, Canada, and forming the rock & roll outfit The Mynah Birds. This attracted the attention of Motown Records before James was arrested and sentenced to a one-year prison term. It would be another decade before James found success with Gordy Records. 

11. Kool & The Gang

Formed: 1964
Best Known Track: Celebration

Many of the pages of Funk music history would be blank without Kool & The Gang. Funky Granny, Funky Stuff, Jungle Boogie, Funky Man –  all hits when the singles dropped. 

9. Earth Wind & Fire

Formed: 1969
Best Known Track: September

Unquestionably, Earth Wind & Fire deserves a spot in the top ten. Not only are they one of the funkiest bands in all of funk, but Maurice White’s band was a success machine and laid the ground for Disco Fever. 

8. The Commodores

Formed: 1968
Best Known Track: Easy

Ever heard of Lionel Richie, that mainstay of 1980’s pop music? He got his start as the creative head of chart-topper The Commodores. They first came to the attention of the public while touring for the Jackson 5. 

7. Bootsy Collins

Born: 1951
Best Known Track: I’d Rather Be With You

The career of Bootsy Collins charts the early history of funk. First rising to prominence with James Brown, Bootsy would later join George Clinton in Parliament-Funkadelic before beginning his own side project, Bootsy’s Rubber Band.

6. Graham Central Station

Formed: 1973
Best Known Track: Hair

Originally, bassist Larry Graham belonged to Sly & The Family Stone. But in 1972, he left to form his own group. Soon enough, Sly Stone’s right-hand man was making waves of his own, dominating the charts in the late-70s.

5. The Isley Brothers

Formed: 1954
Best Known Track: This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak for You)

Although they wouldn’t remain stationary in the mould of funk, with forays into gospel, soul, and R&B, the Isley Brothers hugely influenced the burgeoning genre of funk. 

4. Ohio Players

Formed: 1959
Best Known Track: Love Rollercoaster

Another group that dominated funk in the 1970s: The Ohio Players were at their peak with the release of a string of chart-topping albums, including Skin TightHoneyFire, and Contradiction. Controversial during their time, the Ohio Players used shockingly erotic cover art for their albums.

3. George Clinton

Born: 1941
Best Known Track: Atomic Dog

George Clinton’s rule over the music scene spanned most of the 1970s. Famous for his mixture of funk and psychedelia, his various groups’ strange personalities (Dr. Funkenstein, The Parlaments, and Funkadelic) expanded the possibilities of funk music. 

2. Sly & the Family Stone

Formed: 1966
Best Known Track: If You Want Me to Stay

One of the first multiracial bands to emerge during the Civil Rights era, Sly Stone wrote some of the first pages of funk music. Unfortunately, Stone got cheated out of years of royalties for his many hit songs. 

1. James Brown

Born: 1933
Best Known Track: I Got You (I Feel Good)

The Godfather of Soul is probably the reason funk entered the modern musical lexicon. Without songs like I Got You, Get Up Offa That Thing, and Hot Pants, funk would have likely played a minor part in 20th-century music history. 

Closing Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed our roundup of the best funk bands and artists of all time! Why not check out our list of the best grunge bands next?

About Author

I'm George; the founder of Indie Panda. I'm passionate about helping independent musicians realize the full potential of their talents and abilities through a strong work ethic, coherent project identity and a strong logistical foundation.