The Black Panthers House Funk Band

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The Lumpen performing at Merritt College, 1970. Left to right: James Mott, Michael Torrance, and Clark Bailey.

During the heyday of soul and classic R&B, the Black Panther Party’s Minister of Culture had an idea: a revolutionary black power singing group, complete with dance routines and costumes. The band was called the Lumpen, from Karl Marx’s lumpenproletariat. That may be the least funky band name ever, but they knew how to put on a show. With only one small-issue single to their name, the Lumpen faded from memory, becoming a rumor to collectors. But decades later, a grad student chased that rumor to the Huey Newton papers at Stanford University, where he found a homemade recording of a 1970 performance at Merritt College in Oakland. His book "Party Music" is a history of the band. 

Special thanks to Chris Bishop from for the digitized version of The Lumpen’s “No More,” which was the B-side for their song “Free Bobby Now.”

(Originally aired January 31, 2014)

Bonus Track: The Lumpen, “Free Bobby Now”

Music Playlist

  1. Stand Up and Be Counted

    Artist: W Irvine
    Album: Black & Proud: The Soul of the Black Panther Era, Vol. 1
    Label: Trikont
  2. Free Bobby Now

    Artist: The Lumpen
    Album: Listen Whitey! Sounds of Black Power 1967-74
    Label: Light In the Attic
  3. Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)

    Artist: James Brown
    Album: Say It Loud - I'm Black And I'm Proud
    Label: Universal Motown Records Group
  4. Power for the People

    Artist: Curtis Mayfield
    Album: Curtis 
    Label: Rhino
  5. People Get Ready

    Artist: Curtis Mayfield
    Album: People Get Ready: Curtis Mayfield Story
    Label: Rhino
  6. People Get Ready

    Artist: The Lumpen
  7. No More

    Artist: The Lumpen