Named after a slang word for "stink," funk was indeed the rawest, most primal form of R&B, surpassing even Southern soul in terms of earthiness. It was also the least structured, often stretching out into extended jams, and the most Africanized, built on dynamic, highly syncopated polyrhythms. As such, it originally appealed only to hardcore R&B audiences. The groove was the most important musical element of funk -- all the instruments of the ensemble played off of one another to create it, and worked it over and over. Deep electric bass lines often served as main riffs, with an interlocking web of short, scratchy guitar chords and blaring horns over the top. Unlike nearly every form of R&B that had come before it, funk didn't confine itself to the 45-rpm single format and the classic verse/chorus song structure. Funk bands were just as likely to repeat a catchy chant or hook out of the blue, and to give different song sections equal weight, so as not to disrupt the groove by building to a chorus-type climax. In essence, funk allowed for more freedom and improvisation, and in that respect it was similar to what was happening around the same time in blues-rock, psychedelia, and hard rock (in fact, Jimi Hendrix was a major inspiration for funk guitar soloists).
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