TIR 53: Pilate Airs How Con Funk Shun Became a High-Flying Success

A recent photo of the current Con Funk Shun lineup, with Felton Pilate second from right and Michael Cooper to his right.

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Brought to you by FUNKNSTUFF.NET and hosted by Scott Goldfine — musicologist and author of “Everything Is on THE ONE: The First Guide of Funk” ― “TRUTH IN RHYTHM” is the interview show that gets DEEP into the pocket with contemporary music’s foremost masters of the groove.

Featured in TIR Episode 53 (three segments): Co-founder, multi-instrumentalist, lead singer, songwriter and producer Felton Pilate of Con Funk Shun, who along with Michael Cooper led one of the most successful, distinctive and, frankly, awesome funk-R&B bands of all time. First roaring onto the scene with the No. 1 R&B smash “Ffun” in 1977, by the time the seven-member Northern California group called it quits nearly 10 years later they had released 11 albums, at least half of them gold sales certified, and 16 additional top 40 R&B hit singles. Those hits, however, only scratched the surface of the dozens of killer Con Funk Shun songs.

A sampling includes “Chase Me,” “Too Tight,” “Got to Be Enough,” “Shake and Dance With Me,” “(Let Me) Put Love on Your Mind,” “Make It Last,” “Baby, I’m Hooked” and “Loves Train.” The last few are ballads and underscore the fact that Con Funk Shun was just as masterful at slow grooves as lowdown funk, and even catchy pop for that matter despite never crossing over on the scale of say Earth, Wind & Fire. Their amazing catalog of music has stood the test of time and sounds just as fantastic today as when those records first arrived in stores.

In terms of record sales and awards, Pilate went on to even greater success by lending his production and writing skills to M.C. Hammer’s first three albums, 1988’s triple-platinum Let’s Get It Started, 1990’s 17x platinum Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em, which included the Grammy-winning smash “U Can’t Touch This” and is one of the biggest-selling albums of all time, and 1991’s 5x platinum Too Legit to Quit. Pilate released his solo debut, Nothing But Love Spoken Here in 2006, and in 2015 contributed to Con Funk Shun’s first studio album in nearly 30 years, More Than Love. In 1993, he reunited with Michael Cooper and other band members to bring Con Funk Shun back to the stage, and the group has been performing consistently ever since.

Here, in great detail Pilate shares the group’s beginnings, rise to stardom, insights into the albums and songs, the friction that led to its demise, other successes and challenges, and coming full circle to performing as Con Funk Shun today.

Recorded April 2018

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