by Greg Mayer
Funk is one of the many distinctive (mostly African-) American musical styles: scratchy guitar, horns, bass and drums providing plenty of bottom to put one nation under a groove. Pioneered by greats like James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone, and brought to its apotheosis by the Parliament Funkadelic collective (whose name I like to think of as a neo-Normanism) featuring such masters as George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and Diaperman, one of its most prominent and popular exponents in the 1970s was the Ohio Players. Fronted by Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, resplendent in his Afro turned Veronica Lake-style over his left eye, he plays double-necked guitar in this live, extended, version of “Fire” from 1975, which features the dancing, costuming, and showmanship characteristic of funk (part of a broad reaction to the ascetic and pretentious stylings of early ’70s rock). If you were between about 12 and 35 at the time you’ll know this tune (although you may have your own funk faves).
Sugarfoot, who could imbue the word “well” with unprecedented meanings and pronunciations, died last week (Jan. 26, 2013), the cause not announced, at the age of 69. He had still been playing, and Ohio Players’ music has and will live on in covers and widespread sampling.