On this day in music history: September 4, 1976 - “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 3 weeks on September 18, 1976. Written by Robert Parrisi, it is the biggest hit for the funk/rock band from Steubenville, OH. The song is inspired when the band are playing a gig at the 2001 Club in Pittsburgh, PA when someone in the crowd shouts, “play some funky music, white boy” at the band. When Wild Cherry first record “Play That Funky Music”, it is not originally intended to be an A-side. Around the same time, they will record a cover version of the Commodores hit “I Feel Sanctified”, thinking that will be the hit. The head of their label Sweet City Records will disagree, feeling that “Funky Music” is the stronger of the two.The label will sign a distribution deal with Epic Records on the strength of that songs’ hit potential. Released as a single in March of 1976, the track will first become a hit in US discos before crossing over to radio. By mid-Summer it is on its way to becoming a worldwide hit. “Play That Funky Music” will become only the third single in history to be officially certified platinum when it racks up sales of over 2.5 million copies in the US alone. The band will also have the distinction of being one of only a small handful white artists to top the Billboard R&B singles chart during the last four decades (Daryl Hall & John Oates, George Michael, Lisa Stansfield, and Robin Thicke among them). The single will also earn Wild Cherry two Grammy nominations including Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal and Best New Artist. In 1991, Rob Parrisi will win a lawsuit against rapper Vanilla Ice when he samples “Play That Funky Music” without permission. Parrisi will be awarded $500,000 in the suit. “Play That Funky Music” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
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