Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Funkiest Synth Bass Lines

Herbie Hancock working his keyboard magic
The synth bass made its debut on the urban music scene in the early 1970s. It was introduced by groundbreaking artists like Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock, who had begun creating and experimenting with synthesizers in an effort to bring something fresh and unique to their sound. Synthesizers were soon taken up by other black musicians, and by end of the decade, many funk, R&B and disco artists had synth bass lines on their tracks. And by the mid ‘80s, the synth bass had become a fixture in contemporary music and could be heard in a number of different genres.

Listening to some of the great synth bass lines created over the years inspired me to make up a list of my 30 funkiest synth bass lines. Here’s the list in no particular order. 

Flash Light – Parliament 

Keyboard maestro Bernie Worrell took the synth bass to the next level on this galvanic funk classic. His big-bumpin’ Minimoog bass line serves as the funk engine for this roof-raising party jam, which had folks tearing up dance floors back in the day—and still does today.

More Bounce to the Ounce – Zapp 

Zapp’s influential funk classic features a Godzilla-sized synth bass line that forces listeners to surrender to the groove and rush the dance floor.

Living on the Front Line – Eddy Grant

This powerful politically charged reggae track boasts a searing synth bass line served up by the multitalented Eddy Grant, who plays every instrument on the track.

Bad  – Michael Jackson 

The sleek, sinister synth bass line drives this dynamic MJ classic, one of pop/soul legend’s funkiest grooves.

Boogie on Reggae Woman – Stevie Wonder

 Stevie brings bushels of funk and sonic joy through his amazing moog-bass work on this classic track. This song never fails to generate smiles and get heads bobbin’ whenever it’s played.

Smokey – Funkadelic

Bernie Worrell serves up some moog-bass brilliance on this unearthly gospel/funk masterpiece. The Wizard of Woo’s low-end work on this cut is thick, deep and devastatingly funky.

Sign ‘O the Times – Prince

Prince somberly reflects on the sociopolitical ills of the world on this funkified electro-blues chart-topper, which is anchored by a hard-hitting synth bass line.

Chameleon – Herbie Hancock

Jazz legend Herbie Hancock blew the minds of music lovers near and far when he dropped this gloriously funky instrumental back in 1973. This jazz standard features the now iconic synth bass line, which Hancock played on an ARP Odyssey.

Speed Demon – Michael Jackson

MJ brings massive doses of funk and attitude to this smokin,’ fuel-injected groove, which is bolstered by a badass synth bass line. 

Into the Void – Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor lays down a savage synth bass line on this ferocious industrial-funk groove.

(Not Just) Knee Deep – Funkadelic

Legendary groove master Junie Morrison delivers a sublimely funky Minimoog bass line on this epic funk/dance classic.

I Come Off – Young MC

Rhyme master Young MC spits his tight verses over a treacherous synth bass line on this dope old-school cut.

 Maybe Your Baby –  Stevie Wonder

Stevie delivers some potent synth bass magic on this blisteringly funky tale of heartbreak and infidelity.

Hyperactive! –Thomas Dolby 

 This electrifying new wave/funk hybrid is built around an urgent, stuttering bass line. It’s a truly unique groove that only the mad scientist of synthpop Thomas Dolby could have dream up.

Soft and Wet – Prince

This early Prince joint is filled with stellar synth work, including an irresistibly funky bass line. 

[couldn't find a clip of the original studio recording of the song online]

Atomic Dog – George Clinton

 George Clinton’s iconic and influential funk classic has a super-dope synth bass line that puts some extra stank on the funk.

You Are a Winner – Earth, Wind & Fire

Keyboard wizard Larry Dunn’s hyperkinetic synth bass line catapults this supersonic groove to its funkiest capacity.

Smooth Criminal  –  Michael Jackson 

 This singular R&B/rock/pop gem boasts an indelible synth bass line that immediately hooked listeners upon first play. It’s one of the most memorable and immediately recognizable bass lines in MJ’s discography.

Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop) – Parliament

Bernie Worrell lends his keyboard genius—including an ultra-funky Minimoog bass line—to this monster dance-floor groovathon.

Battle Flag – Lo Fidelity Allstars, featuring Pigeonhed

Andy Dickinson's inspired bass work (played on a real bass through synth pedals) significantly elevates the funk level on this exhilarating remix of Pigeonhed’s song.

Got to Give It Up – Marvin Gaye

Music legend Marvin Gaye personally laid down the bumpin’ synth bass line on this influential funk/disco classic. He played it on the RMI harmonic synthesizer.

Drive Me Wild – Vanity 6

This sexy Prince-produced track features a funky robotic-sounding synth bass line.

The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) – Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott’s blissfully bizarre 1997 hit contains one of the phattest synth bass lines to ever grace a track. I mean this bass line is straight-up obese and insanely funky.

Cash in Your Face – Stevie Wonder

Stevie’s scathing musical statement on housing discrimination features a wickedly funky synth bass line.

Superfly Sister – Michael Jackson 

MJ gets waist-deep in the funk on this super-tight groove, which boasts a bangin’ synth bass line.

Reach for It – George Duke

George Duke’s funkalicious Minimoog bass line sets off this awesome groove in style.

Hey Mr. Jones – Jane Child

Multitalented Canadian artist Jane Child delivers some fantastic low-end synth work on this dark, harrowing peek into drug addiction.

Gloryhallastoopid (Pin the Tail on the Funky) – Parliament

This loose, good-time Parliament groove features a nasty funk bass line on synth.

Natural Born Killaz – Dr. Dre and Ice Cube

Former Death Row keyboardist Priest "Soopafly" Brooks serves up a menacing synth bass line on this diabolical G-Funk joint.

Action Speaks Louder Than Words – Chocolate Milk

This smoldering political-message track is anchored by Robert Dabon’s angry Moog bass line.