Soapbox: Fishbone Documentary Takes a Second Look At the Other Side of Funk

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lots of music documentaries have been bubbling up recently that have caught my eye and ear. You've got TVOne's Unsung series and their immaculate attention to the big hits you know, but the people behind them that you know very little about (Post Bourgie has a marvelous write-up about it). Then there was the whole elementary playground spat concerning A Tribe Called Quest' and their doc, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest. To add to the boil, Fishbone's doc, Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone will be getting a theatrical release after a nice run last year in indie theaters. The doc, which is directed by Chris Metzler and Lev Anderson, and with narration by Laurence Fishburne, details the LA based ska-rock n' funk band's journey in the 80's and the influence they left on today's pop music, as they broke boundaries and expectations, with all the speed bumps in-between (you know, the meat n' potatoes portion, such as band disputes over creativity, egos, arrests, etc.).

From the trailer, this seems like this is going to be a wild yet informative ride as little is ever said about the band, but it's being promised, (and to quote from the trailer): "this [doc] is no lame-ass Behind The Music."


The main conversation that is hovering in this trailer and in discussions with the directors, is about the curiosity that most people had about them as they were the odd band out during the mid-to-late 80's into the 90's when most Black artists at that time were New Jack swinging, quiet storm crooning, or laying down rhymes. To me it seems that American mainstream radio didn't know what to do with Fishbone back then when their albums In Your Face and Truth & Soul showed the alternative side to funk in the late 80's. Even though Fishbone did attempt to build the bridges and appeal to a wide audience, somehow what they were doing didn't translate widely. They weren't alone as other Black rock acts during and before that time, like Living Colour (Fishbone's heavy metal equivalent), Mother's Finest, and the New Wave bar band, The Bus Boys also had folks scratching their heads about what to exactly peg them as. Bands who took soul and blues music to the next level and twisted it on it's head with their watercolor swirl of genre hopping. Sad to even imagine that Fishbone would be out of the equation, as the sum of their parts influenced the likes of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and No Doubt in later years, but to little acknowledgement.



As they were ahead of their time, Fishbone's influence has carried on into today. Current popular acts like Kanye West, Janelle Monae, OutKast, and recently in full force, Van Hunt, have added a jolt to the typical formulas of R&B and hip-hop. Yet, still the more it's tweaked, the less people seem to 'get' it or even accept it because it's deemed as too 'left field'.

This whole thought process reminds me of the question Zoe Kravitz, daughter of rocker, Lenny Kravitz, was asked by the The Boombox, about if she believed Black artists in rock music was a 'trend'--- her response was brilliant. Black people in rock isn't a trend---it's always been a constant, and a presence that has been there since day one. It sort of makes me itchy that there are those who continue to box Black artists in with just two music genres---R&B and Hip-Hop---as if Chuck Berry, Ike & Tina Turner, Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, Prince and Funkadelic never happened.

With Fishbone's documentary getting a wider release, it could help to put an end to that far out-of-date misconception and celebrate the fact that music knows no color, no matter what genre it is.

These are just my thoughts, what are yours?

Camino: OKP

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