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African American Music Appreciation Month: Funk & Motown

June is the month dedicated to the appreciation of African American music. It was first created by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 as Black Music Month and renamed by President Barak Obama to African American Music Appreciation Month in 2009.

Funk & Motown History

"Funk music is a popular genre of dance- based music relying on a heavy syncopated beat and grooved, pulsing rhythm. It is a product of African American urban culture, and as such traces its roots back to the attitudes and styles of jazz, gospel, blues, and soul." -- Christopher Muscato, Study

"Motown is known as its own musical genre today, but originally it was a record label in Detroit, Michigan. Founded by songwriter Berry Gordy, Motown's name comes from a nickname for Detroit- a mix of "motor" and "town" paying homage to the city's role in the auto industry." -- Hoffman Academy

Here are some performances from big names in funk & Motown!

Check out MPLs Spotify Playlist of influential funk and Motown artists!


"In the 1960s Soul took on a more distinctive sound and attitude. Pioneered by artitsts like James Brown and George Clinton, this new genre combined Soul, R&B, Jazz and Rock and Roll with complex, syncopated rhythms and driving bass lines. Most of all, this new, "funky" music demanded to be danced to!" -- Hoffman Academy


With the rise of soul and funk, the creation of the Motown record label defined African American music in the 20th century. Many of the chart-topping hits in the 1960s and 70s were from artists on Motown. 

"Many of Motown's biggest hits actually came from all-female, vocally- oriented groups like The Supremes, The Marvelettes, and Martha and the Vandellas. Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder are two of the label's most successful solo artists." -- Hoffman Academy

Stevie Wonder (1950- )

"His classical prowess on several instruments and the expressiveness of his voice has led him down a path of unprecedented fame, political impact and societal reverence... With a slew of high-profile collaborations, too many funk classics to count, and unsurpassable musicianship, Stevie Wonder is one of the most important artists in music and American entertainment culture." -- Ru Johnson, Westword

The Jackson 5

"The Jackson 5 were one of the biggest phenomenon in pop music during the early 70s... The Jackson 5's infectious brand of funky pop-soul was a definite departure from the typically smooth, elegant Motown sound, as befitting the group's youth and the dawn of a new decade." -- Steve Huey, All Music

The Supremes

"The Supremes, American pop-soul vocal group whose tremendous popularity with a broad audience made its members the most successful performers of the 1960s and the flagship act of Motown Records... Not only were the Supremes the Motown label's primary crossover act, they also helped change the public image of African Americans during the civil rights era." -- Carol L. Cooper, Britannica