Funk music is best known for its unmatched ability to create a groove. Syncopated basslines, rhythmic drums, and tons of other elements like horns or synth come together, locking in and taking you for a ride.
These are some of the best funk songs, so if you need to hit the dance floor or want some midday grooving, this list was made for you!
Cold Sweat – James Brown
‘Cold Sweat’ is one of James Brown’s most memorable funk songs, which is saying something because he has a lot of great ones! The jazzy sax meshes with the guitar in a really cool way, creating a groove you can’t help but bop your head to. Brown sings about how being close to the person he’s attracted to is so overwhelming it makes him break out in a cold sweat—we’ve all been there, right?
Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker) – Parliament
This jam is the epitome of the funk genre, featuring a bassline with intricate rhythms, joyful group vocals, and trumpets. It’s a song that invites carefree dancing into the moment, letting you sing, “there’s a whole lot of rhythm going round” as you get down to the beat.
Soul Power ’74 – Maceo And The Macks
The star of ‘Soul Power ’74’ is the saxophone. It’s comparable to the vocals of most songs, following different melodies that build and sway as they take the listener through the song. The trilling notes are soulful, and the crooning horns are so satisfying. And best of all, the song has a great rhythm to clap along to.
Get Down on It – Kool & The Gang
If you’re someone who doesn’t take pride in their dance skills, this song is for you. ‘Get Down on It’ encourages everyone to move their body, even if they don’t have the most technical skills. Dancing is supposed to be fun! It’s a way to release energy creatively and uniquely, no matter how skilled you are. Kool & The Gang reminds you to “get down on it; you gotta feel it.”
Related: Get down with these upbeat party songs.
Get Up I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine – James Brown
This lively track is full of sexual energy—James Brown is ready to get it on. With an animated call and response section, the song feels like gearing up in anticipation of an intimate night. Fun Fact: this song was the first hit on the Hot 100 with the word “sex” in the title. How daring!
Related: Listen to more songs with good bass line.
One Nation Under a Groove – Funkadelic
The title of this song seems to be a play on the USA’s national anthem—instead of “one nation under God,” it’s ‘One Nation Under a Groove.’ It’s a clever way to show what a unifying effect funk music (or music in general) can have. Everyone can come together under the vibrant groove of this song, with the only concern being how much fun you can have.
Related: This song is on our list of good 70s songs.
Think (About It) – Lyn Collins
Lyn Collins opens this track with a spoken section where she indignantly lets men know that women will no longer put up with those who don’t treat them right. “It takes two to make a thing go right,” and if one person isn’t doing the work, it shouldn’t be up to the other to pick up the slack.
What is Hip? – Tower of Power
‘What is Hip?’ searches for an answer to this unanswerable question. The question is especially relevant in today’s society when the trends of what is popular or attractive seem to change every month. Every person has a different opinion of what is “hip,” making it overwhelming to try to fit in anywhere! At least we know that the amazing horns in this song will always be cool.
Chameleon – Herbie Hancock
A stripped-back instrumental intro lets the funky bassline and rhythmic beat settle into your soul, laying the groundwork for the many different instruments and rhythmic departures on their way. ‘Chameleon’ is known for its revolutionary combination of jazz and funk, coming in at nearly sixteen minutes of straight musical genius.
Related: Check out more songs with an animal in the title.
Pass the Peas – Fred Wesley & The JBs
This funk instrumental is a smooth one. Fred Wesley, the trombonist for James Brown’s band, takes the lead in this song. The song is relaxed but has no shortage of interesting riffs and instrumental combos. You could strut down the sidewalk or dance around in your room to this song. It’s a great track for any part of your day.
Running Away – Roy Ayers
If you’re ever in an unhealthy relationship, try to take the advice of this song and run! The quick tempo of ‘Running Away’ is fitting for your escape. Leaving someone is hard, but it’s a relief when you’re finally able to say, “I’m running away now ’cause you’ve been mean to me.”
Related: If you’re on the run, see our running away songs playlist.
Funkytown – Lipps, Inc.
‘Funkytown’ is one of the most mainstream funk songs, known for its addictive synth melodies and hopeful energy. The track captures that dreamy feeling of wanting to escape to another town. You talk and talk about it but never really move. Lipps, Inc asks, “won’t you take me to Funkytown?” when they know it’s finally time to make that move.
Related: Enjoy the best disco songs.
Pick Up the Pieces – Average White Band
This song is all about the vibe, featuring sparse lyrics that yell out the song’s title. The horns are the star, but that beat in the background is undeniably awesome. ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ is one of Average White Band’s biggest songs, likely because it showcases their instrumental talent so well.
Use Me – Bill Withers
Bill Withers laments over his romantic situation in ‘Use Me,’ a great track with deep staccato piano and unrelenting high hats. All of Withers’ friends and family are trying to warn him that his partner is using him. But Withers already knows, and he likes it, telling this person, “you just keep on using me until you use me up.” Some people theorize that the track is about drugs, not a person, which would add another layer to the word choice of “using.”
Related: Feeling used? Here are some songs about manipulation.
Oops Up Side Your Head – The Gap Band
‘Oops Up Side Your Head’ is made for a live audience, featuring a clap-along beat and only one main lyric the audience needs to learn. The energetic keys and grooving drums are enough to get the whole crowd rocking, not to mention the effortlessly dynamic horns that add that little something extra.
Related: Clap along with these songs with hand clapping.
Word Up – Cameo
The vocal delivery in this song is super fun, making it a great one to sing along to and really feel yourself. Bouncing synth and eerie riffs carry you through each section, giving you something to dance to when the vocals drop out. Cameo created this song partly in response to the heavy romantic music that was taking over the airwaves, saying sometimes all we need is to dance—”we don’t have the time for psychological romance.”
Related: Here are the best songs about words.
Shining Star – Earth, Wind & Fire
A positive outlook on life is so important but often difficult to stick to. Luckily, Earth, Wind & Fire can help you out. They are known for their uplifting, uptempo music, and ‘Shining Star’ is an exciting one. Lines like “you’re a shining star no matter who you are” are a beautiful reminder that you always have innate value, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Related: See our shining playlist of star themed songs.
Super Freak – Rick James
‘Super Freak’ has an iconic bassline, perhaps one of the best ones in funk, and Rick James’ velvety vocals add even more fun to the song. James sings about a freaky girl who isn’t tied down by anyone or anything. She is always having a good time and invites you to have a good time right along with her.
Related: You’ll love our Motown playlist.
Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry
The story behind this song is a fun one. Wild Cherry thought of themselves as a rock band, but when they were doing some live shows in the early 2000s, disco music you could dance to was more popular. Someone shouted at them, “play some funky music, white boy.” The phrase stuck, inspiring one of the most popular songs in their catalog.
Superfly – Curtis Mayfield
‘Superfly’ was used on the soundtrack of the 1972 movie Super Fly, and the song was inspired by Curtis Mayfield wanting to take a look at the lives of black people in American cities. He references how hard it is to make a living when the system is stacked against you with lines like “the only game you know is do or die.”
Related: You’ll see this song on the Superfly movie soundtrack.
Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club
Strange sliding guitar sounds and giddy call-and-response sections give ‘Genius of Love’ a distinctive edge. The track sings about the weightlessness of a simple love, where you don’t need to overthink or analyze the relationship. It just feels good, and you let yourself feel it. Quirky sounds and vocals help the listener let go and not think.
Related: Head over to our playlist of great 80s songs.
Right Off – Miles Davis
This jam takes you for a funky ride, full of different instruments that each get their moment in the spotlight. The deep bass sets the groove, and the crashing cymbals help keep the beat. Electric guitar and various horns all play thrilling riffs, singing their melodies in a way where you can feel the passion.
Gett Off – Prince & The New Power Generation
‘Gett Off’ is about getting intimate, and Prince doesn’t hold back on the many blunt innuendos. He sings to a woman he thinks isn’t being loved right, offering to show her the good time she has been missing. The song helps break down that stigma surrounding intimacy, singing “everybody grab a body” to show that it’s a natural thing.
Fantastic Voyage – Lakeside
Coolio’s melodic rapping gives this song a fantastic vibe as he sings about going on a ‘Fantastic Voyage.’ The track talks about the search for a place full of harmony and peace—somewhere you don’t have to worry about danger or conflict. Coolio references some difficulties he’s faced and how exhausted he is by them before inviting us to “come along and ride on a fantastic voyage” to try and escape.
Cissy Strut – The Meters
The drum beat in this song is infectious, doubling with the bass to solidify the groove and fully immerse you in the song. It’s a completely instrumental song, moving through each section with changes to the main rhythm and added background riffing. ‘Cissy Strut’ will get you feeling good—it’s definitely a great song to strut to!
Related: This song features on our list of great drumming songs.
I Gotcha – Joe Tex
Joe Tex’s intense and growling vocals build energy throughout the song, especially when the horns work with him, rising higher and higher until the tension is finally resolved. Tex sings about a woman who promised him fidelity but doesn’t seem to be keeping that promise. Instead of being heartbroken, Tex has fun confronting her, yelling, “I gotcha,” and laughing.
Related: This tune is one of the songs from Reservoir Dogs.
Bootzilla – Bootsy’s Rubber Band
Bootsy Collins sings about an interesting metaphor in this song, comparing himself as a musician to a toy. Though the horns are triumphant and the vocals rejoiceful, the lyrics have a dark undertone to them. Lines like “if you wanna see me boogie, all you gotta do is wind me up” make it seem like Collins is saying his audience has complete control over him. Or, this could just be a fun way for him to talk about his many talents!
Dukey Stick – George Duke
The walking bassline provides a steady beat to move to as George Duke encourages you to dance and “set yourself free.” His mellow vocals are inviting, giving you a safe space to let go and groove. Duke wants you to have a good time, saying, “we want your hips to move, we want your lips to groove,” and this song helps you do just that.
Zombie – Fela Kuti
This song has lovely horns and a marching beat, but the track is not as light-hearted as it first sounds. Fela Kuti wrote ‘Zombie’ as a protest song, criticizing the Nigerian military by comparing them to zombies. The song became a rallying cry for those angry with the government, weaving its way into the political landscape of the time.
Related: Make some noise with the best protest songs of all time.
Give It Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers
‘Give It Away’ is an uptempo, rocking song about the importance of giving away your love freely. The line “give it away” is repeated countless times to help drive home that message. Nothing is stopping you from sharing your love, and the more you share, the more you get back. So give it to everyone you can!
Renegades of Funk – Rage Against The Machine
This gritty song is an ode to renegades—people who stand up for what they believe in, even if it puts them at risk of being called a traitor or criminal. All change has to start with someone being a “rebel,” and Rage Against The Machine name-drops some of the most inspirational examples, like Chief Sitting Bull and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Related: Stand up for your beliefs with our fight songs list.
The Message – Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five
‘The Message’ is an iconic funk song that largely contributed to a cultural shift in rap music. The genre began to move from celebratory party songs to vulnerable social commentary songs because of honest lines like “it’s like a jungle sometimes. It makes me wonder how I keep from going under.”
Planet Rock – Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force
Vocal modulation, electronic instrumentation, and galactic-style synth make this song a standout. ‘Planet Rock’ really does make you feel like you are on a different planet, and it seems much better than the realities of Earth. With the line “nature’s children dance and set a chance on this mother Earth,” it’s clear that these guys are trying to turn our Earth into Planet Rock (and they are succeeding!).
Related: Want to visit another planet? Here are the best universe songs.
Theme from Shaft – Isaac Hayes
The 1971 movie Shaft centers around a detective hired to find a mob boss’s daughter, and the film is full of drama, fights, and of course, some great music. This theme won a Grammy (Best Instrumental Arrangement) and an Oscar (Best Original Score). Some lyrics describe the main character, John Shaft, but it is mostly instrumental with tons of impressive riffing.