It out-energizes the Energizer Bunny. It spans generations and genres and nearly defies gravity. It’s a hallowed (and haunting) One-Hit-Wonder that keeps reinventing itself for film, television, branding, pro sports, weddings, deejay mixes, karaoke bars -- and untold cover versions, from U2 live to Tex-Mex, Marching Band and Bluegrass. And on the 30th anniversary of its release on vinyl, it now has its own iPhone App!
“WTF — What the Funkytown!” — based on the Biggest Hit ever from Minnesota’s torrid and varied music scene of the past 50 years, “Funkytown,” officially is released this month, the same month in 1980 that Casablanca Records released the 45 rpm single from the album, Mouth to Mouth, by Lipps, Inc. (aka Steven Greenberg and Cynthia Johnson). The disco-era hit went on to top the international charts, from pop to R&B to disco. WTF allows fans worldwide to download the app from iTunes or the popular Funkytown website @ www.funkytown.com, and by spinning their finger on the WTF disc, they can speed up or slow down the beats-per-minute (bpm), or scratch on the legendary track like an F-town mix master.
The infectious tune also is featured on a swinging jazz trio version, with well known Twin Cities bass player, Gordy Johnson (who also arranged the piece), pianist Donnie LaMarca and drummer JT Bates, which is keeping right in line with the multitude of versions that have been done over three decades in multiple styles, from marching band and bluegrass to rock and drag queen Ru Paul and too many others to mention here.
Produced by the song’s creator, Greenberg, and Ten Twenty LLC, WTF is just the latest “Funkytown” incarnation — and more iPhone apps are on the way. This one was already named one of “The 40 best branded iPhone music apps of 2009” by the leading digital music business information and strategy company, Music Ally, which has been providing publications, consulting, and research to the music and technology industries since 2001 and serves often as a source for media from the BBC to the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN, the Financial Times, Yahoo, AOL and others. Music Ally slotted the WTF App at number 35, despite the fact that the app was quietly launched in early December:
35. What The Funkytown! was unusual, in that it was based on a song rather than an artist or label. It was a virtual scratching app to monkey about with Funkytown, speeding it up and slowing it down, or even playing it in reverse. (App Store link)
Never-Ending Song Now in Aussie Shakespeare Play and The Three Musketeers Swedish Production
After finding its way into more than 30 movies, 30 TV shows, a long list of commercials, video games and even the New York Yankees’ 2000 team CD (Vol. 2), the irrepressible “Funkytown” was featured in 2009 in the modern production of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” at the Sydney Opera House in Australia and the world-renowned Stockholm City Theater production of “The Three Musketeers.”
“I think the song’s enduring appeal is surreal! — and not just in English-speaking countries, but in places behind the old ‘Iron curtain’ where listening to and owning Western pop music was against the law,” says Greenberg. “I get — unsolicited — an average of five calls a week to license it for a variety of things — and the global fan emails about the song range from the hilarious (one kid wanted his high school re-named after it)to the sad (it’s been played at a mother’s funeral…..)! ‘Funkytown’ has proven its resiliency over 30 years to the point where I realized recently that it will most likely become a legacy that my children can pass on to their children, it’s crazy! WTF is just one more chapter in the never-ending story of the song.”
Funkytown” had sold more than 10 million copies in 86 countries around the globe since its release 30 years ago in January 1980. It was recorded at the same studio, Sound 80, where Bob Dylan re-recorded much of his 1975 classic album Blood on the Tracks, with engineer David Rivkin, who went on to work with Prince, Fine Young Cannibals, Jonny Lang and others.
It has appeared in more than 30 worldwide movies including “Shrek 2,” “Contact,” Mel Brooks’ “History of the World” and others, earning gold and platinum records (again) for soundtracks like Alvin and the Chipmunks and Shrek 2. It has aired in more than 30 TV shows such as “Oprah,” “ER,” “South Park” and “Friends,” and has driven big brand commercials for Nissan, FedEx, France’s Areva Energy (where it is even the “hold” music for people calling its corporate offices),plus also served as an audio backdrop during broadcasts for the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, and others. It remains the biggest hit in the Polygram Records catalog and in the history of Minnesota music, outselling both Prince, Dylan and Owl City singles.