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Happy Birthday To The King Of Disco Funk

Written by on April 23, 2020

Story by Chuck Tackett

Happy Birthday To The King Of Disco Funk

“God planted me in Michigan for a reason to hear everything. And I did, from classical to country. I always knew music was my thing. I am blessed in that way. I never had to search for what I wanted to do.”

Narada Michael Walden: musician, songwriter, producer

Down through the decades, it has been pretty much a consensus that Donna Summer has been crowned the Queen of Disco by the masses.

But when it comes to the King of Disco, the answer is not cut and dry, like it is for Ms. Summer.

Depending on who you talk to, the names of Italian producer Georgio Moroder, or French producer Cerrone are tossed around. I guess for those who are into electronica or cheesy sounding disco, that may be fine. I couldn’t stand a lot of it back then in the 1970s, and it still works my last nerve with modern-day dance music.

Here in the USA, the names that float around are KC of KC & The Sunshine Band. His real name is Harry Wayne Casey. The late Dan Hartman and Sylvester are also in the mix on that list. But in my opinion, the King of Disco Funk has to be Narada Michael Walden. Funk, for me, will always be the REAL Disco, not those lackluster sounding imitators.

Michael Walden was born on April 23rd, 1952 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was given the moniker “Narada” by his spiritual advisor, Guru Sri Chinmoy.

After graduating from college, Walden moved to Florida, where he was a member of several rock bands. 

His proficient skills as a drummer have made him a first-call session musician, who has played in countless recording sessions from rock, pop, jazz, R&B, to fusion.

Some of his sessions included Jeff Beck in his “Wired” album, John McLaughlin, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

It was in the late 1970s when I became aware of Narada Michael Walden in his recording career. He had several disco hits I danced to back in the day: “I Don’t Want Nobody Else To Dance With You”, “I Shoulda Loved Ya,” and his massive dance hit, “Reach Out,” a remake of the 1960s era song by the famous group, The Four Tops. His career as a recording artist is showcased on Rhino’s “Ecstacy’s Dance: The Best of Narada Michael Walden.” Walden’s breakthrough album was 1979’s “The Awakening.”

It was in the 1980s that he started to shine as a Grammy award-winning songwriter and producer. Some of the songs he produced, written and co-written were Jermain Stewart of “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off” fame, George Michael, Diana Ross, Steve Winwood, Whitney Houston, and Aretha Franklin, just to name a few. In 1985, Walden won a Grammy for Aretha’s “Freeway of Love.”

In the 1990s, Walden won a Grammy for “Producer of the Year” for the movie soundtrack, The Bodyguard. Other movie soundtracks he was involved with were: Beverly Hills Cop 2, Perfect, Waiting To Exhale, License To Kill, Jason’s Lyric, 9 1/2 Weeks, Crooklyn, Free Willy, and The Associates.

Walden turns 68 on April 23rd. He is married to his wife Anykampa: a health food store owner.

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