New York City, New York

Funkytown by Lipps Inc.

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Gotta make a move to a town
That's right for me
Town to keep me movin'
Keep me groovin' with some energy Read full Lyrics
You look at the cover art of the CD. It features a pair of some kind of apparently female humanoids. They have purple skin (cousins of Barney the Purple Dinosaur?), black lipstick, and green hair. Each seem to be either emitting or receiving rainbow-hued laser beams from/into their mouths. By a band called "Lipps, Inc." whose debut album was Mouth to Mouth. Can you guess the decade?

You're right if you said the '70s. Okay, technically it was 1980, but come on! Funkytown belongs with disco. Roller-disco, at that. Bell-bottom pants and platform shoes and chunky, dangling ear jewelry. Heck, a woman could change the flat tire on your van with the junk she had hanging from her ears in the '70s.

The Lipps, Inc. <b>Mouth to Mouth</b> album coverThe Lipps, Inc. Mouth to Mouth album cover
Lipps, Inc. was, technically-speaking, a one-hit wonder. They had some small amount of success otherwise; their later single "How Long?" made it to #4 on the US dance charts in 1981. But basically, that's it. So be nice. It isn't their fault that they just got discovered right when America collectively decided to nuke disco from orbit and seed the ashes with salt and turpentine.

Songs which proceeded Funkytown on the hit charts included numbers by the Village People, Blondie, and The Whispers. Anybody could have made the last disco song.

Funkytown is supposed to be a song about New York City. But the official word is that it was a metaphorical place, without much meaning or inspiration. The real heart of this song lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Steven Greenberg is from. Greenberg wrote and produced all of the group's music. Cynthia Johnson, also from Minnesota, was the lead singer, and after that the band roster generally dwindles down to whoever was wandering around the studio that day. In any case, New York City would seem to be funky-er than anyplace in Minnesota (at least until Prince took over), so it makes sense, if sense simply must be made, that someone would make a move to a town that's right for them.

Scene from a funky townScene from a funky town
As for the song itself, it is no exaggeration to say that it took on a life of its own. Lipps, Inc. broke up by the mid-1980s, but "Funkytown" just went on and on, referenced, sampled, and replayed in countless television, movie, and commercial appearances. Movies in which the song appear include Shrek 2 and History of the World Part 1. TV shows include Friends and Malcolm in the Middle. Cartoons include Futurama and South Park. The song has also been covered several times, most notably by Australian band Pseudo Echo, which earned them a top spot on the charts in Oz for seven weeks in 1986.

It seems to be the song that everybody references for the late-'70s/early-'80s time period, and also the song that everybody uses to make fun of disco. Remember that only months before this song came out, an angry mob at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois, held "Disco Demolition Night." 75,000 people showed up, when the stadium was expecting 5,000. The event featured a long harangue by the host of ceremonies against disco, followed by a huge pile of disco records which were blown to smithereens with dynamite, while crowds cheered and climbed the walls in their frenzy to stamp out disco. Yes, check the videos, it was that crazy. "Funkytown" came out right after this, and it only seemed to prove their point.

Don't blame it on Lipps, Inc. It could have happened to anybody.

Pete Trbovich
October 12, 2010
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Comments: 2

  • Principe Mary from Concord MaI love your song funky town it’s the best ever song made.
  • Funky Mom from Newark DeThis is the theme song for my daughter and I. Every time we hear it played on the radio we think of each other and when it is safe to do so we send the other a text. love her so much and really smile big when I hear this song.
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