Monday, February 20, 2017

Funk Legend, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Walter “Junie” Morrison Dead at 62

Influential funk artist Walter “Junie” Morrison died on January 21. Morrison’s daughter, Akasha, confirmed the news via his Facebook page last Thursday.  He was 62. The cause of his death has not been made public.
The gifted multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, singer, producer and arranger made a tremendous impact on the music world through his association with two legendary funk outfits--the Ohio Players and Parliament-Funkadelic.

The Dayton native joined the Ohio Players while still in his teens in the early 1970s. Morrison served as keyboardist, lead singer, songwriter, arranger, producer and musical director for the band. He contributed to the writing and producing of sterling tracks such as “Pain,” “Pleasure” and “Ecstasy.”

 And Morrison wrote and produced the quirky funk classic “Funky Worm” (1973) on his own. It was the band’s first single to reach number one on the R&B charts, as well as their first gold record. Morrison also provided the comical “Granny” voice on the track; and his inventive synthesizer  solos—played on an ARP Pro soloist—have been widely sampled on hip-hop records--233 songs according to the WhoSampled site.  Moreover, Morrison’s synth work on “Funky Worm” has been much-emulated by West Coast hip-hop producers, becoming a staple of the G-Funk sound of the ‘90s.

The musician left the Ohio Players in 1974 and released three solo albums—When We Do, Freeze and Suzie Super Groupie—before he began working with P-Funk in early 1978. He made major contributions to Funkadelic’s landmark album One Nation Under a Groove. His original composition formed the template for the album’s influential title track. Additionally, he contributed to the writing of nearly every track on the album.

 Other P-Funk albums in which Morrison contributed his myriad talents include Parliament’s Motor Booty Affair and Gloryhallastoopid; and Funkadelic’s Uncle Jam Wants You. He and George Clinton co-wrote the brilliant funk/dance classic “(Not Just) Knee Deep” for the Uncle Jam album. Morrison also provided the song’s incredibly funky Mini-Moog bassline. The oft-sampled track has also had a huge influence on hip hop.

Additionally, Morrison played keyboards and co-wrote songs for Clinton’s 1982 album Computer Games, which contained the iconic funk Anthem "Atomic Dog." Clinton is said to have called Morrison “the most phenomenal musician on the planet.” Morrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of P-Funk in 1997.

Morrison continued to work with Clinton and P-Funk off and on over the years as well as releasing more solo albums: Bread Alone (1980), Junie 5 (1981), Evacuate Your Seats (1984) and When The City (2004).

In addition to P-Funk, Morrison produced music for other artists, including two tracks on Soul II Soul’s 1995 album Vol. V: Believe (“Universal Love” and “I Care”).

Morrison’s music spans generations. Artists young and old have shown their appreciation for his invaluable musical contributions. Solange Knowles recently paid tribute to him on “Junie,” a song from her critically acclaimed album A Seat at the Table (2016).

The legendary groove master will be greatly missed by funkateers, hip-hop heads and general music lovers alike.

"Pleasure" by the Ohio Players

"One Nation Under a Groove" by Funkadelic

"Super Spirit" by Junie Morrison

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