Friday, April 26, 2013

"Four Corners" & "Funky Four Corners" (Part I: information & four records)

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest Revision - December 10, 2020

This is Part I of a two part pancocojams series on the four corners & funky four corners dances & other performance art movements.

Part I provides information about and four examples of "Four Corners" & "Funky Four Corners" records.

Part II features videos of four corners and funky four corners dances and fraternity routines.

Click for Part II of this series.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all the artists who are featured in this post, and thanks to all those whose comments are included in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

The "four corners" and "funky four corners" are late 1960s African American originated individual Rhythm & Blues/Hip Hop dances & African American originated line dances.

"The funky four corners" is also the name of footwork, hopping (steppin) routines that are performed by the historically Black Greek lettered fraternity Omega Psi Phi, Inc.

In addition, "the four corners" also appears to be a dance movement that is performed by South Africans to at least one Gospel song: Solly Mahlangu - "Siyabonga Jesu" ("Wa Hamba Nathi").

There are also [American] country dances called "the four corners".

This pancocojams post focuses on the African American versions of this dance.

The words "four corners" refer to the act of moving the hips in four directions [right, left, back, front or some variation of those four movements] or moving your entire body in those directions. Those movements correspond to the north, south, east, and west.

The word "funky" in "funky four corners" is an adjective that suggests that the music, dance, or other movement so named has more funk than any music, dance, or other movement that is merely titled "four corners". When something is "funky", the music, dance, and/or movements are thought to be performed with more enthusiasm and "hype". (Note that the word "hype" comes from the word "hyperactive".) This means that its rhythm, energy, and flavor is "pumped up" (increased). The word "funky" in the words "funky four corners" may also suggest that the music, dance, and/or other movements are more "sensual" or "sexual" than those found in a "four corners" song or chant.

Excerpt #1
..."Things get started (of course) with the Highlighters Band and the original (though not an original 45…I wish*) and ‘The Funky 16 Corners’. This is nothing if not a virtuoso performance by the band, led by vocalist James Bell, who having decided to double down (and then again) on the corners, absolutely tear up the joint...

Oddly enough, of all the funk/soul dances namechecked in the records of the day, the execution of ‘The Four Corners’ (and all exponential variations herein) wasn’t all that mysterious, being a fairly simple hip-thrust to the points of the compass, multiplied when deemed necessary by the man on the record. In addition to the records included in this mix (and some I’m sure I have yet to hear) that use a ‘corners’ dance in the title, there are scores of others that drop the name of (usually) ‘The Four Corners’ in the standard listing of the popular dances of the day, a list that almost always included the Boogaloo, Philly Dog, Camel Walk, Boston (or other regional) Monkey on and on ad infinitum.”...

Written and produced by Allen Toussaint, and rumored to feature none other than James Black on the drums (how about those breaks?) ‘Four Corners’ is one of the great New Orleans funk 45s. I mean, in addition to all those drums, you get to hear Lee testify with the “SHAKE-A MAKE-A BREAK-A HULA” and the “FOUR CORNERS BABY!”. It bears mentioning that ‘Four Corners’ is one of a couple of 45s in this mix that owe a serious debt to Archie Bell and the Drells’ ‘Tighten Up’. Whether this has to do with that particular record being especially suited to doing the “four corners”, I cannot say for sure...

Excerpt #2
"Jerry-O kept the Boogaloo trend with ‘Funky Boogaloo’ b/w 'Push Push' (No 40 R&B Feb 3, 1968) and ‘Dance What Cha Wanna' b/w Afro Twist Time' (spring 1968). Meanwhile during the summer of 1968, a new hip swirl dance emerged from the black community called’ the four corners'. 'Funky Four Corners' b/w 'Soul Lover' released on both on Boo-Ga-Loo and White Whale Records, capitalized on the popular dance, making it a regional hit at block parties and social gatherings."

Excerpt #3
From [This link is no longer active.]
...The hip hits the four direction in a funky way...

Update: January 14, 2020
Excerpt #4
Here's a comment from the discussion thread of the New Orleans, Louisiana Funk Band The Meters' record "Cissy Strut":
Theresa P., 2016
"I remember at the record hops when I was a teenager, when this song was played, we did the "cissy strut" or the 4 corners dance. : )"

Example #1: The Highlighters Band - The Funky 16 Corners


incrediblecHiller, Uploaded on Dec 9, 2007
This instructional dance song includes the following lyrics:
"Funky 16 - That’s funky four to the left, funky four to the right, funky four to the back, and funky four to the front.

Example #2: Funky Four Corners by Jerry O

Lovelanemusic, Uploaded on Jul 7, 2010

1968 Jerry O featuring The Funk Brothers

Example #3: Lee Dorsey - Four Corners Part 1 (Amy US)

OldiesButGoodiesRec,·Uploaded on Aug 31, 2011

Example #4: Lee Dorsey Four Corners Part II.wmv

TraxFour, Uploaded on Oct 30, 2011

Amazing Lee Dorsey track. Part II used to get played on the mod scene back in the mid 90s. Backed by none other than the Meters! (As per Record Collector article)

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