Los Angeles! New York! Minneapolis?
Prior to Prince unfurling his purple paisley flag and planting it on the musical map, Lipps, Inc. first took the Twin Cities to the top of the charts — albeit with a song about wanting to leave that particular town for somewhere more exciting.
Even from a young age, Steven Greenberg knew he didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps as a successful storage magnate. The rhythms of rock enticed him, and as a teen in the 1960’s he drummed in local bands for a few years before learning how to write and produce his own songs.
And where do you go when you have big dreams and musical schemes? Generally, anywhere but the Midwest — at least at that time. Greenberg chose Hollywood, but quickly realized he was out of his depth and returned to the home fires in Minnesota — where the warm ember of destiny awaited the inflaming bellows of boogie.
Resisting family pressure to give up on all this music silliness, he got a job as a wedding DJ while continuing to write and produce his own songs, playing all the instruments himself. In 1979, with a hot new backing track and the name Lipps, Inc. already picked out, he needed only one more thing to begin his assault on the charts….a singer.
Cynthia Johnson spent most of the 1970’s fronting the band Flyte Tyme, a popular group in Minneapolis that later morphed into R&B hitmakers The Time in the 1980’s (with a lot of input from Prince). She was looking for a different creative avenue when the opportunity to audition as lead singer for a new group presented itself. She and Greenberg clicked immediately, and into the studio they went.
After receiving rejections from every record company he visited, Greenberg played a demo of his hot new track to a roomful of executives at Casablanca Records, one of the most boogie-tastic disco labels in the world. When the entire office, from the vice-presidents to the secretaries, came running into the room to dance, everyone knew they had an obvious hit on their hands.
“Funkytown” grooved its way to #1 in the spring of 1980, one of the last disco tunes to do so. Or, if you prefer, one of the first of a wave of post-disco hits in the 1980’s that didn’t sound like the established genre of the previous decade. Disco in disguise.
So make a move to a town that’s right for you…..with Lipps, Inc.
Oh my goodness! I remember that song, and I’ve not heard it in such a long time. Such a good tune too. I really enjoy reading the backstory in your posts, Houston.
Thank you, Misky. I very much appreciate it, and I’m so glad you enjoy these posts!