Music/Lyrics: Son Seals
Vocals: Mike; Son Seals (7/17/99, 10/3/99)
Original Artist: Son Seals
Original Album: Live and Burning (1978)
Historian: Mockingbird Staff
Last Update: 2011-07-12
Some say that the ultimate compliment for an artist is when another musician covers his or her material. Son Seals took it one step further: after joining Phish for a cover of his song “Funky Bitch,” he invited Trey to join him on a new studio rendition (released on the 2000 album Lettin’ Go). Sadly, Son Seals passed away in 2004, at the age of 62.
Some of the band’s most memorable takes on “Funky Bitch” have been as much for the atmosphere and surroundings as for the music. Fans remember fondly the fireworks that lit up the Maine sky during The Great Went “Bitch” on 8/16/97. And Phish turned a strange situation into a humorous one on 12/30/96, when the arena P.A. system cut out during “Bitch” and the band hammed it up on stage to keep the crowd entertained while technicians scrambled to fix the equipment. Otherwise, though, “Funky Bitch” remains a fan favorite (see 7/1/95, where Trey talks about how often the song is requested) while never straying too far from its bluesy progression. It does, however, allow each member of the band to show off their chops while Mike sings a high-pitched lament of his lover’s fickle ways.
"Funky Bitch" 11/15/96 St. Louis, MO (with John Popper)
But “Funky Bitch” has been more than just a quick blues number, or a novelty act for guests. On a select few occasions, the song has been a monster jam vehicle. Pick up 11/22/94 (or Live Phish 18, which includes the version as filler) for an insane, free-form jam that sprung from the ending of an otherwise normal “Funky Bitch,” and 11/30/97 for an unfinished version that jammed into new territories. Round out your collection with 7/28/98, with an ending akin to “Black-Eyed Katy.” Those looking for rare, obscure versions should try their hand at some circulating soundchecks, as “Funky Bitch” was a frequent soundcheck number in the ‘90s. Two notable versions are 5/5/93 (“Poor Heart” and “Funky Bitch” intermingled) and 8/24/93 (sung in the vein of Midnight Oil, complete with “Beds are Burning” lyrics). Also notable is that Mike has featured “Funky Bitch” in his solo shows, first on 11/16/10 in Minneapolis and then semi-regularly thereafter.
The list of special guests that have joined Phish for “Funky Bitch” reads like an All-Star lineup from jamband heaven. In addition to members of Son Seals’ band (7/10/97), and, as mentioned, Son Seals himself (7/17/99 and 10/3/99), other special guests on “Funky Bitch” include John Popper (3/3/90 & 11/15/96), Carlos Santana, Raul Rekow, and Karl Perazzo (7/25/92), Jimmy Herring (2/19/93), Sugar Blue (4/10/93 and 10/3/99), Warren Haynes (12/11/95), Peter Apfelbaum (11/30/96), Dave Grippo and James Harvey (3/18/97), LeRoi Moore (7/21/97), Derek Trucks (7/7/99), and Michael Ray (9/9/00).
"Funky Bitch" 10/31/10, Atlantic City, NJ