The sound of funk is a major component of America’s soundtrack. One particular song made history on November 18, 1978 peaking at number 28 on the Hot 100 Billboard Charts; Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under a Groove.” It’s a song that is a rousing anthem of union and community. George Clinton founded the groups Parliament and its counterpart Funkadelic paving the way for funk groups to follow in their footsteps. In 1978-1979, the groups racked up four Number One R&B hits: “Flash Light,” “One Nation Under a Groove,” Aqua Boogie” and “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” Funkadelic spoke with The Guardian earlier this year about how the creation of the funk anthem, “One Nation Under a Grove” came to fruition.
“We’d played a gig in Washington DC and afterwards two young girls, LaTanya and Darlene, came up to the car and told us it was the best concert they’d ever seen. They said: ‘It was like one nation under a groove.’ As soon as I heard that, I knew it had to become a song,” said group founder George Clinton. Clinton went on to say he wanted the song to have the silky sounds of an R&B classic, and he used his influences of The Temptations, gospel music, as well as a catchphrase from a movie. “I also took a catchphrase used by the Mantan Moreland chauffer character in the Charlie Chan movies, when he was ready to run from the ghost: ‘Feet, don’t fail me now!’ And the line ‘Dance your way out of your constrictions’ is about people’s hang-ups: you can deal with them by being grumpy or with a smile,” explained Clinton.
The song that is all about uniting humanity and gave Funkadelic the guitar slapping funky hit they needed in 1978. The song’s lyrics promote social and racial progress. “Ready or not, here we come, getting’ down on the one which we believe in,” signifies finding a way to knock down barriers in togetherness. The lyrics, “So wide you can’t get around it, so low you can’t get under it, so high you can’t get over it,” are seemingly the roadblocks and challenges you find along the way, but later in the song, “With the groove our only guide, we shall all be moved,” is the reminder that banding as one will help overcome it. Freedom is the key in the song. The lyric “We shall all be moved” connotates language similar to the civil rights movement, America’s constitution, and religion in the King James Bible. However, there are a few that will insist on staying in “Hang up alley way” while the rest of the world continues “Getting down for the funk of it.”
Guitarist Michael “Kid Funkadelic” Hampton added, “I always took “One Nation Under a Groove” to mean that some of the world’s problems are too big to change, so we might as well just groove.”
The National Museum of African American Music is celebrating the mixture of genres with a gallery room called “One Nation Under a Groove.” Learn more about the gallery room here, under “Thriller.”