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Funk Brothers, The

🇺🇸 Detroit, MI
  • Born
The Funk Brothers were the unsung heroes behind Motown Records' success, playing an integral role in shaping the immortal Motown Sound and contributing to countless hit records throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.

The Funk Brothers - a rotating ensemble of gifted session musicians and hired guns summoned to Motown's Detroit recording studio, the fabled Hitsville USA - spanned keyboardists, guitarists, bassists, drummers, percussionists, and brass and woodwind players. Their inimitable style, which incorporated elements of R&B, jazz, funk and gospel, produced tight, infectious grooves characterized by intricate bass lines, driving drums, melodic guitar riffs and soulful horn arrangements. Moreover, the versatility and improvisational skills of the individual contributors enabled the Funk Brothers to seamlessly adapt to various genres and artists, resulting in a wide range of musical styles represented across the tens of thousands of sessions they cut for Motown under the supervision of label founder Berry Gordy Jr. and staff producers like Smokey Robinson, Norman Whitfield and the team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland.

There is no one definitive list of Funk Brothers members: some historians have claimed that virtually every musician ever to play on a Motown session would qualify for inclusion in their ranks. Some of the most notable and prolific Funk Brothers include bassist James Jamerson, pianist Joe Hunter, keyboardist Earl Van Dyke, guitarists Robert White and Eddie Willis, and drummers Benny Benjamin and Richard "Pistol" Allen.

Despite their immense contributions, the Funk Brothers' work went largely unrecognized during Motown's commercial heyday. That changed with Paul Justman's 2002 feature documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, which highlighted the Funk Brothers' role in Motown history and shed light on their immense talent and influence.

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