Play That Funky Music
Writer(s): Robert Parissi (see lyrics here)
Released: April 1976
First Charted: June 19, 1976
Peak: 13 US, 12 CB, 12 HR, 2 RR, 12 RB, 1 CL, 7 UK, 2 CN, 5 AU, 3 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.6 UK, 3.68 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 77.41 video, 222.27 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
“Play That Funky Music” has been interpreted “as some kind of statement of racial solidarity” SG in which Wild Cherry’s frontman Rob Parissi had a white boy epiphany and discovered black music. Of course, it was the disco era and the two songs that topped the Billboard Hot 100 right before this were also by white boys – the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing” and KC & The Sunshine Band’s “(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty.”
Parissi formed Wild Cherry (named after cough drops) in Ohio in 1970 as a rock band. They played regional working-class towns and put out a few records but hadn’t made a dent nationally. It wasn’t until they broke up, reformed, and reshaped their rock sound to disco that they found success. One story suggests the sound – and the band’s hit song – grew out of a show in Pittsburgh when the crowd demanded “Play that funky music, white boy.” The drummer wrote down the phrase and Parissi wrote a song about it. FB That makes it sound like the song “owed its existence to a moment of lightning-bolt inspiration. It didn’t.” SG
Parissi was already trying to adapt to sound like the Ohio Players’ “Fire,” “from the monster bassline to the cartoonishly nasal Snagglepuss growl that Parissi adapts.” SG Originally “Play That Funky Music” was intended to be a B-side to the band’s cover of “I Feel Sanctified” by the Commodores. Parissi told Billboard when the song hit that Wild Cherry were “an electric funk people’s band…We’re trying to do a white thing to R&B music, adding some heaviness to it.” SG While it was “an exceptional piece of heavy R&B” SG it was in the same ballpark as stuff like Funkadelic and Ohio Players.
The entire song is built around the bassline – “the downstroke guitars, the merciless cowbell, the horn stabs.” SG “Even on the hook, Parissi is practically just singing along to that riff.” SG “He throws ad-libs everywhere he can, and he vamps like a pro.” SG
First posted 10/23/2022.