Week 110: “Funk For Joy” by The Extremities

One of the best things about the mp3 age is the phenomenon of iPod serendipity. This is when your iPod, happily shuffling its way through your library, suddenly seems to sense what’s happening around you and pulls out the perfect song.

You’re calling your accountant and “Taxman” by The Beatles comes on…you’re frying up some breakfast and it plays “Green Onions” by Booker T and the MG’s…you’re emptying the garbage just as “My Heart Will Go On” starts to play…

But sometimes, iPod serendipity isn’t that specific; sometimes the song that plays just seems to match the general mood of the moment rather than the particular event. It happened to me once with “Funk For Joy” by The Extremities.

I was leaving work on the last day before a summer vacation; it was a perfect, breezy, sunny day, and as I walked past a park I saw a group of kids chasing madly after bubbles that their mother was blowing. They were going nuts, in the way that only five-year-olds can go nuts. Their happy giggles sounded like part of the song, and two of them were jumping in perfect time with the beat of the song. It was as if they were dancing to the music that only I could hear.

At that moment, I realized two things: first, it was going to be a good summer, and second, I needed to stop staring at them, because their mother was getting uncomfortable.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The opening piano. It kind of makes me think of a ringing church bell. Because the interval is a fifth, you can’t tell at first whether the song is going to be major or minor. But then that soothing sax comes in and the joy-funk begins.

2. The piano flourish at 0.48. It’s pure piano happiness, and it’s mirrored by an organ flourish at 1.41.

3. The out-of-nowhere bridge section at 1:48. It would have already been a great song, but then they throw in this great moment, featuring a great vocal sample from a funky little ‘70s gem called “You And The Music” by Donald Byrd. It’s moments like this that separate groups like The Extremities from less thoughtful sample artists.

Recommended listening activity:

Breakdancing with your fingers.

Buy it here.