Funk originated in the mid-1960s, with James Brown's development of a signature groove that emphasized the downbeat—with heavy emphasis on the first beat of every measure ("The One"), and the application of swung 16th notes and syncopation on all bass lines, drum patterns, and guitar riffs. Other musical groups, including Sly and the Family Stone, the Meters, and Parliament-Funkadelic, soon began to adopt and develop Brown's innovations. While much of the written history of funk focuses on men, there have been notable funk women, including Chaka Khan, Labelle, Lyn Collins, Brides of Funkenstein, Klymaxx, Mother's Finest, and Betty Davis.
Funk derivatives include the psychedelic funk eras of Sly Stone and George Clinton; the avant-funk of white groups such as Talking Heads and the Pop Group; boogie, a form of post-disco dance music; electro music, a hybrid of electronic music and funk; funk metal (e.g., Living Colour, Faith No More); G-funk, a mix of gangsta rap and funk; Timba, a form of funky Cuban popular dance music; and funk jam (e.g., Phish). Funk samples and breakbeats have been used extensively in genres including hip hop, and various forms of electronic dance music, such as house music, old-school rave, breakbeat, and drum and bass. It is also the main influence of go-go, a subgenre associated with funk.
The word funk initially referred (and still refers) to a strong odor. It is originally derived from Latin "fumigare" (which means "to smoke") via Old French "fungiere" and, in this sense, it was first documented in English in 1620. In 1784 "funky" meaning "musty" was first documented, which, in turn, led to a sense of "earthy" that was taken up around 1900 in early jazz slang for something "deeply or strongly felt".
In early jam sessions, musicians would encourage one another to "get down" by telling one another, "Now, put some stank on it!". At least as early as 1907, jazz songs carried titles such as Funky. The first example is an unrecorded number by Buddy Bolden, remembered as either "Funky Butt" or "Buddy Bolden's Blues" with improvised lyrics that were, according to Donald M. Marquis, either "comical and light" or "crude and downright obscene" but, in one way or another, referring to the sweaty atmosphere at dances where Bolden's band played. As late as the 1950s and early 1960s, when "funk" and "funky" were used increasingly in the context of jazz music, the terms still were considered indelicate and inappropriate for use in polite company. According to one source, New Orleans-born drummer Earl Palmer "was the first to use the word 'funky' to explain to other musicians that their music should be made more syncopated and danceable." The style later evolved into a rather hard-driving, insistent rhythm, implying a more carnal quality. This early form of the music set the pattern for later musicians. The music was identified as slow, sexy, loose, riff-oriented and danceable.
A great deal of funk is rhythmically based on a two-celled onbeat/offbeat structure, which originated in sub-Saharan African music traditions. New Orleans appropriated the bifurcated structure from the Afro-Cuban mambo and conga in the late 1940s, and made it its own. New Orleans funk, as it was called, gained international acclaim largely because James Brown's rhythm section used it to great effect.