Mix your own "Funkytown"
Minnesotan Steven Greenberg's No. 1 disco of 1980 hit is featured in Sounds Good to Me: Music in Minnesota
exhibit at the Minnesota History Center.
In the Studio 4U section of the History Center's newest exhibit, visitors can remix and sing
their own versions of Greenberg's disco hit, "Funkytown," which was No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 charts
The song, with its catchy chorus, "Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it," became an
international crossover hit and briefly propelled the young Minnesotan into the world of touring,
fame and fans.
"I was 29 at the time, and it was a dream come true," says Greenberg, 50, who still lives
in the Twin Cities and is CEO of Designstein, a web design studio.
Greenberg's "Funkytown" is also featured in the "One-Hit Wonder" section of the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame and Museum in
Cleveland, Ohio. Being part of two museums is a bit of a trip, Greenberg says.
"When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame called, and then the Minnesota History Center, they were
both surreal experiences," he says. "It seems like yesterday that I sat down at the piano and
wrote 'Funkytown.' The song is way bigger than me."
Greenberg's creativity and pioneering spirit has spanned decades. His musical career began as
a drummer in several "garage" bands that played in ballrooms and dance halls across the upper Midwest.
In the 1970s disco took hold, and Greenberg founded the Discomobile, a mobile disco-deejay
unit hired for parties, weddings and similar venues.
In the late 1970s, Greenberg also wrote and produced a disco song, "Rock It,"
which he recorded at Sound 80 Studio in Minneapolis. With demo in hand, he headed to Los Angeles
and New York in search of a record deal.
Eventually, after many rejections, Casablanca/Polygram Records signed him. "I was so nervous
that I dropped off the tape with the receptionist and took off and I still got the deal," he recalls.
While with Casablanca/Polygram, which had other artists such as Kiss, Donna Summer and the
Village People on its labels, Greenberg wrote, performed in and produced "Funkytown" in Minneapolis.
Also on vocals was St. Paul singer Cynthia Johnson, lead vocalist for Greenberg's group,
"It was all done in our town with no outside influences," says Greenberg. "It was truly
Minnesota-made: recorded here, mastered here, mixed here. I'm very proud of that."
Greenberg was asked by the head of Minnesota Historical Society's media group,
Mike Mouw, to create
special mixes of "Funkytown" for the exhibit's recording studio.
Artifacts from that time of Greenberg's life, such as the Billboard chart with his hit at the
top, are included in
"It's a very funky-looking studio, with different angles and cool stuff," says Greenberg. "The
lyrics are posted on the wall of the live room where visitors can sing. If they sing well then it's
fun, and if not then it's fun too."
In 1993 he founded Funkytown Recording Studio in St. Louis Park,
Minn., created its label October Records, which has a small cadre of local artists. He still keeps a hand in the music business.
He later wrote and
directed "Funkytown" the movie, a documentary that follows the lives of five Minnesota bands and
premiered at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in 1998.