Song: “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc.
Reached #1: May 31, 1980 (their first, 4 weeks)
By May 1980, disco was pretty much on its last legs. The infamous “Disco Demolition Night” at Chicago’s Comiskey Park had taken place almost a year earlier. Before “Funkytown”, there hadn’t been a disco #1 since mid-‘79. The #1 song before “Funkytown” was Blondie’s “Call Me”, and Paul McCartney’s “Coming Up (Live At Glasgow)” followed.
I think “Funkytown” got to #1 because it wasn’t a true “disco” song – it was a transitional track, sort-of disco but moving toward ‘80s dance music.
The thing is… Lipps Inc. didn’t really exist. It was a group of session musicians formed by Minneapolis songwriter/producer Steven Greenberg – Greenberg made four albums in four years, but after “Funkytown”, none made a similar impact. Greenberg has since moved away from pop music to Broadway and web design.
“Funkytown” has the potential to be a legal milestone, of all things… it’s one of the first big hits written and released after a 1976 Copyright Act change that allows the original holder of a copyright to terminate an assignment of copyright after 35 years (for works written after January 1978, and provided proper notice is filed at least 25 years after the assignment). Greenberg has done so – he’s notified Universal that he wants his copyright back in 2015. You can imagine that a lot of songwriters are watching, as if Greenberg can get his copyright back without Universal buying a change to the Copyright Act in Congress, it will open the floodgates to many ‘70s and early ‘80s songwriters filing to get their copyrights back.
To be honest, I kind of prefer the cover version by Australia’s Pseudo Echo to the original. That version didn’t make it to #1 in the USA (peaking at #6 in 1987), but was a #1 hit around the world for a band that also vanished as quickly as Lipps Inc. did. So I’ll wrap up today with a bonus song for you…
Tomorrow… it’s my blog, and I’ll cry if I want to.
Other songs that reached #1 on May 31:
1975 – “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” by Freddy Fender (his first, 1 week)
2003 – “21 Questions” by 50 Cent feat. Nate Dogg (his second, 4 weeks)