*Rob Parissi, the frontman for 70s hard rock band Wild Cherry, had no shame in admitting that in his desperation to write a hit song, he straight up copied other hits with slight variations, thinking nobody would notice the blatant beat biting, dope style taking.
Well … the thievery worked, but only one time.
As the story goes, Parissi had a subscription to Billboard magazine and would pick out a song or two that were charting well from each issue to copy, switching it up just enough to avoid getting sued. One of the songs he ripped off was “Fire’ by the Ohio Players.
Meanwhile, Wild Cherry had a standing gig at the 2001 Club, and with disco dominating everything at the time, some crowds weren’t feeling their rock. After one show, a Black audience member shouted, “Play some funky music, white boy.” Parissi wrote down the phrase on a bar order pad and they decided to pair it with their “reworking” of “Fire.”
They recorded the song in Cleveland with a disco sound, making the drum and that “Fire” inspired bass line prominent. The band members, however, were concerned about the “white boy” lyrics, but Parissi insisted on keeping them.
This was going to be the B-side of Wild Cherry’s cover of The Commodores’ “I Feel Sanctified.”
But when the label heard “Play That Funky Music,” the owners suggested that the B-side become the A-side.
It was released on this day in 1976 and sold over two million copies.
It was their only hit.