Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Abstract

Few can deny that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s untimely death had a profound impact on American life. In this dissertation, I argue that the assassination inspired musicians, producers, artists, and consumers across the nation to reconstruct soul music and, in its place, construct the cultural idiom known as funk. Narrating the process by which black artists' embraced and popularized funk modes of expression, this dissertation traces how the genre extended directly from post-assassination trauma and attempted to provide a purposeful announcement of black solidarity and an uncensored narrative of the black American experience. In telling the story of funk, its origins, and its long-term cultural impact, this dissertation collects, narrates, and analyzes the sounds and voices of the genre. It highlights its musicians, management, critics, and fans while demonstrating how these individuals derived inspiration from the King legacy.

The funk movement, which emerged as an alternative to the more militant Black Freedom Movement platforms of the 1960s and 1970s, ultimately recast mainstream black identity as forever dynamic and distinct, but indisputably American. In telling the story of funk, its origins, and its long-term cultural impact, this dissertation collects, narrates, and analyzes the sounds and voices of the genre. It highlights its musicians, management, critics, and fans while demonstrating how these individuals derived inspiration from the King legacy. Research and writing explores James Brown's activism, music, and stylistic innovations, all of which profoundly challenged the creative centers of Motown, Stax, and Hollywood to offer their own interpretations of funk. In the context of these chapters, purveyors used funk modes of expression to react to the death of Dr. King, express black pride, comment on the broader problems of black America, and showcase new iterations of black fashion. The final stage of this project hones in on the process by which funk's most successful albums, along with high-grossing blaxploitation films and black network television, gradually became permanent components of American popular culture. In the end, the broader cultural impact of funk, inasmuch as it gave rise to new musical genres, emerges as directly responsible for black music's supremacy over contemporary mainstream American airwaves and the establishing of a more prominent position within the American culture industry.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Share

COinS