The Bar-Kays, looking fly at Wattstax
Listen/Download – The Bar-Kays – Sang and Dance – MP3
How’s about we get things started this week with a taste of Memphis funk (and a huge helping of sample bait)??
The tune I bring you today was another one of my Washington DC scores. Oddly enough, though I came home with a huge, steaming heap of vinyl, almost all of it was in LP form. There was much digging to be had, but little of it took the form of the little seven inch wax biscuits we love so much here at Funky16Corners headquarters.
However, as a lifetime of experience has shown, sometimes quantity is sacrificed for quality, and this was one of those times. I probably came home with less than 20 45s, but as you’ll see as they get posted up in this space, they were by and large of an exceedingly high quality. Maybe not the rarest stuff (though there were a couple of what the kids refer to as “tough pulls”) but excellence from end to end.
The 45 I bring you today (I’ll only post one side, saving the flip for a later date) is an very cool side by a band with an interesting history.
Is there anyone among you that hasn’t heard ‘Soul Finger’? If you have, then you’re already hip to the sounds of the Bar-Kays.
Founded in Memphis in 1966, the Bar-Kays were soon recruited by the mighty Otis Redding as his backing band. They toured with him through 1967, until December 10th of that year, where the majority of the band perished along with Redding in a Wisconsin plane crash. Only the band’s trumpeter Ben Cauley survived that crash, and their bassist – who was in a second plane – put the band back together.
The band’s Volt discography shows only two singles released during 1968 (and I suspect that some or all of those sides may have already been in the can), but by 1969 the reconstituted Bar-Kays had returned to their duties backing other Stax/Volt artists in the studio, as well as recording their own music. ‘Sang and Dance’ was definitely recorded by the “new” Bar-Kays as sax player Harvey Henderson (a new member) is namechecked during the song.
Today’s selection first appeared as an A-side in 1969, though the copy I have is from the songs second appearance, as the B-side of the R&B hit ‘Son of Shaft’ in 1971.
I’d already heard ‘Son of Shaft’, but was unfamiliar (so I thought) with ‘Sang and Dance’. As soon as I previewed the song on the store’s turntable I realized that while I may not know the Bar-Kays record, I had definitely heard it sampled by an obscure artist by the name of Will Smith, on an equally obscure record called ‘Getting’ Jiggy With It’.
Fortunately for all of us, ‘Sang and Dance’ has much more to offer than the familiar ‘Na Na Na Na Na Na Na’ refrain. It is a veritable smorgasbord of funk, mixing dance craze boilerplate, a chant borrowed from Jomo’s ‘Uhuru (African Twist)’*, funky wah-wah guitar, fatback drum breakdowns and a blazing, horn-infested chorus.
It’s a great way to get your week (and your heart) started.
I hope you dig it.
*I assume that the Bar-Kays copped the chant from the earlier record, but it’s also likely that the chant arose from a third, common source.