American funk singer, keyboardist, and producer Walter "Junie" Morrison died on January 21, as announced by his daughter on his Facebook page. As a founding member of the Ohio Players and Parliament-Funkadelic, Morrison was the mastermind behind some of the biggest hits of the 1970s and 1980s, including "Funky Worm," "(Not Just) Knee Deep," and "One Nation Under a Groove," and countless others. The former would go on to become one of the most sampled songs in hip-hop and paved the way for Dr. Dre and West Coast G-funk.
He also put out numerous well-received solo releases under aliases including Junie, J.S. Theracon, and BoyInSea, which ranged from ambient to R&B and soul. One of Morrison's most frequent collaborators in the late 2010s was California modern funk ambassador Dâm-Funk, who featured the former on his 2015 album, Invite the Light (before Kanye West sampled "Suzie Thundertussy" on "No More Parties in LA").
Below, the Stones Throw affiliate reflects on his relationship with Junie, and shares a career-spanning playlist of his favourite tracks.
Dâm-Funk: Junie had become a friend of mine around 2010, a year after my first full-length album Toeachizown was released on Stones Throw Records. Upon being brought to one of my DJ sets in Chicago by New Orleans' DJ Soul Sister, we got to know each other really well over the years. Sparked from our growing friendship, he later did one of his only "late period" solo sets with me in that same city, opening for me and my band Master Blazter while touring Toeachizown. Chicago's DJ Ron Trent was on the bill as well, rounding out a very eclectic night in music for the time. The futurist that Junie has always been, he performed with an iPad, synths, and his lady, who held down backup vocal duties. This was around 2010, 2011. Everyone there for his opening set was blown away by it! He even did "(Not Just) Knee Deep" using that same equipment. For the gig, I had him and his lady picked up by a limo to and from the show. He deserved that level of respect and treatment.
Through the years we kept in touch, sometimes speaking with each other for over an hour on the phone. I learned a lot from him. About funk, his past, and just life in general, yet mainly musically and spiritually. I remember his distinctive speaking voice (as his singing voice was too), careful cadences, and his big vocabulary when speaking. He was cool man (I'm writing that last line in his voice in my head). We would later have fun with Twitter and I encouraged him to make an Instagram account. Yet he was already savvy on the tech side, building his own websites and distributing his own music through his own cyber platforms: juniemorrison.com, Bandcamp, and others even before we met. Social media was the only thing that he was warming up to. I remember him kind of humbly laughing at getting into it, mainly due to him being very private. But he did and connected with many people who've loved him and his music since his Ohio Players days, all the way up until now, in turn gaining new diggers of his music along the journey.
In 2015, he would record two joints for my second full-length album, Invite the Light (again released on Stones Throw). "Junie's Transmission" and "Junie's Re-Transmission" were the songs which started and bookended that album. We also did a non-album joint titled "Magic," in which Junie shreds on lead guitar during the breakdown portion of the song. I mention all that only to let you all know that I sincerely feel so honored to have participated in such a creative manner with one of my heroes in music. And, to have known him as a friend was even more important, because his spirit was so unique and interesting. I wish I'd had more time with him. He was deep.
His music that I've picked out to share with you is what encapsulates his memory for me at this particular time. I chose to stay away from his bigger songs: "One Nation Under a Groove," "(Not Just) Knee Deep"(a #1 hit on the U.S. R&B charts in 1979), "Funky Worm" (one of the greatest funk songs ever laid to wax), and so many others, and instead stuck with gems from his solo output and things that weren't heavily sampled by artists in the game. Different tempos, grooves, and styles. Songs I grew up listening to and have influenced and inspired me along the way. Enjoy and let's all do our best to keep the great memory of Walter "Junie" Morrison vibrantly alive and respected out here. As he told me in one of our last conversations, "Keep the funk alive DF," and (humbly speaking) that's what I intend to continue to do.
Rest in peace brother Junie.
1. "Cookies Will Get You" (Freeze, 1975)
2. "World of Woe" (Freeze, 1975)
3. "Super J" (Freeze, 1975)
4. "Johnny Carson Samba" (When We Do, 1975)
5. "Anna" (When We Do, 1975)
6. "If You Love Him" (Suzie Supergroupie, 1976)
7. Bernie Worrell - "I'll Be With You" (All the Woo in the World, 1978)
8. "Apple Song" (Bread Alone, 1980)
9. "Nagual's Theme" (Bread Alone, 1980)
10. "Why" (Bread Alone, 1980)
11. "Rappin About Rappin (Uh-Uh-Uh)" (Junie 5, 1981)
12. "Last One To Know" (Junie 5, 1981)
13. J.S. Theracon - "Buckets O'Duckats" (Buckets O'Duckats, 1981)14. George Clinton - "One Fun At a Time" (Computer Games, 1982)
15. "Super Spirit" (Plush Funk, 1982)
16. "Can't Get Over Losing You" (A Fifth of Funk, 1993)
17. Funkadelic - "Too Tight For Light" (A Fifth of Funk, 1993)
18. Jessica Cleaves - "Off The Wall" (Testing Positive 4 the Funk, 1993)
19. "Triune" (Testing Positive 4 the Funk, 1993)
Dâm-Funk is on Twitter.
Max Mertens is on Twitter.