The Funk Brothers biography

The most successful group of studio musicians!

Motown’s house band didn’t have an official name. Most of the time, they weren’t even credited on the albums.

When they performed with their bandleader, they went under the name Earl Van Dyke & the Soul Brothers. Apparently, Berry Gordy didn’t like the name Funk.

Made up of a core of fifteen studio musicians, they did, however, play on more #1 hits than The Beatles, Elvis, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys, put together!

The Funk Brothers were active between 1959 and 1972 when Motown moved from Detroit to Los Angeles.

Perhaps the greatest musician in the Funk Brothers was their bass player James Jamerson. His intricate bass lines are incredible melodies, often more elaborate than the vocal melody.

A great example of Jamerson’s genius can be found in his Ain’t No Mountain High Enough bass line.

It would be silly to list all the songs they played, as you can see below, I’ve recorded six of their songs, making them the most covered band on Spytunes!

The 2002 documentary Standing In The Shadows Of Motown was the first time they got any real recognition. It’s a great insight into the brutal life of being a musician in the 60s.

For example, their farewell gift in 1972 came in the form of a note on the door simply stating “No work today”.

Can I Get A Witness – Chords

Can I Get A Witness is a fast blues format song in the key of Eb.

Over each chord in a blues, you quickly switch between three chords, creating an energetic riff.

Go to Can I Get A Witness chords.

Can I Get A Witness – Lyrics

Ah listen everybody (everybody), especially you girls (especially you girls),
is it right to be left alone by the one you love is never home.
I love too hard, my friends sometimes say,
but I believe, I believe, that a woman should be loved that way.

Go to Can I Get A Witness lyrics.

Get Ready – Chords

Get Ready is a song that moves from a repetitive Minor Pentatonic verse riff to a simple four-chord chorus progression.

When the solo comes along, we take the original sax and string ideas and put them on the guitar.

Go to Get Ready chords.

Get Ready – Lyrics

I never met a girl who makes me feel the way that you do,
(you’re alright).
Whenever I’m asked who makes my dreams real I say that you do,
(you’re outta sight).

Go to Get Ready lyrics.

I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Chords

I Heard It Through The Grapevine is a Motown classic with a very clever chord progression.

All chords are as if from the key of Eb with just one chord being different, the Eb is a minor.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine chords.

I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Lyrics

I bet you’re wonderin’ how I knew,
’bout your plans to make me blue.
With some other guy you knew before,
between the two of us guys you know I loved you more.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine lyrics.

Jimmy Mack – Chords

Jimmy Mack is a song written by Motown’s main songwriting team, Holland-Dozier-Holland. Penned especially for Martha Reeves and The Vandellas.

This song invites us to discuss how you can substitute instead of extending chords to create more interesting sounds.

Go to Jimmy Mack chords.

Jimmy Mack – Lyrics

Jimmy Mack, Jimmy. Oh, Jimmy Mack, when are you comin’ back.
Jimmy Mack, Jimmy. Oh, Jimmy Mack, when are you comin’ back.
My arms are missing you, my lips feel the same way too.
I tried so hard to be true, like I promised I’d do.

Go to Jimmy Mack lyrics.

My Guy – Chords

My Guy was an early Motown hit from Mary Wells who was the first female Motown star.

Using more jazz-influenced harmony, when you learn this song you’ll get an introduction to “playing over changes” as the licks use new scales for each chord.

Go to My Guy chords.

My Guy – Lyrics

Nothing you could say could tear me away from my guy.
Nothing you could do ’cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy.
I’m sticking to my guy like a stamp to a letter,
like birds of a feather, we stick together.

Go to My Guy lyrics.

You Can’t Hurry Love – Chords

You Can’t Hurry Love has a great chord progression using only chords from the key of Bb.

By starting some of the chords earlier than expected, You Can’t Hurry Love gets its famous bouncy feel.

Go to You Can’t Hurry Love chords.

You Can’t Hurry Love – Lyrics

I need love, love, to ease my mind.
I need to find, find, someone to call mine, but mama said.
You can’t hurry love, no you just have to wait,
she said love don’t come easy, it’s a game of give and take.

Go to You Can’t Hurry Love lyrics.