Busta’s Person of the Week: Legendary Con Funk Shun’s frontman Michael Cooper gets real and raw about why they disbanded and their reunion

Busta’s Person of the Week: Legendary Con Funk Shun’s frontman Michael Cooper gets real and raw about why they disbanded and their reunion
October 12
14:12 2022

By Busta Brown

“Get ready, The Love’s Train is coming and you can’t escape it,” joked Michael Cooper. He’s one of the lead vocalists and also plays the rhythm guitar for one of the funkiest bands of the 70s and 80s – Con Funk Shun! The legendary Funksters scored a string of top ten hits, including their 1978 number one smash “Ffun.”

I saw Con Funk Shun in the 70s, 80s, 90s and even six years ago with my good friend Phil Allen of WSNC, 90.5 FM. Their choreography, musicianship, vocals and stage show are still exciting and energetic. They hadn’t missed a beat. They had Phil and me partying like we were still teenagers. Con Funk Shun had the sold-out crowd singing and partying nonstop for nearly 90 minutes.

When Michael Cooper said goodnight, they left the stage and then the thunderous chant began. “We want more! We want more! We want more!” We did that for about five minutes and then the band smoothly walked back onto the stage in their cold-blooded all-white suits and went into their smash dance hit “Got to Be Enough” and “Chase Me.” The crowd lost it! Lead vocalist Felton Pilate and Karl Fuller began playing their signature number one hit “Ffun” and the excited 40-year-olds-and-up fans rushed to the stage and started getting down. After Con Funk Shun left the stage, the crowd continued singing “Fun, fun, fun” until the house lights came on and we were asked to exit by security. 

It’s 2022 and they’re hotter than ever. I asked Michael Cooper what fans can expect during their 40th Anniversary Tour. “To be run over by a freight train. They will hear a train whistle, and when they hear that whistle, it’ll be too late. You can’t get outta the way. When we hit the stage, the first thing everybody will hear is this giant diesel horn.”

His sense of humor kicked in. In his deep Barry White voice, he said, “You will hear a voice that will sound like the man is 100-feet tall, saying, ‘Excuse me. Can I have your attention? I will be your conductor of funk and the train is approaching. Not just any train, but the Love’s Train.”

When Cooper shared the show’s song lineup, I hollered, “Coop! Are you for real?” He replied, “Busta, we’re bringing the Funk and giving the people a show like never before. We’re doing all of our hits. We’re doing everything on our 40th Anniversary Tour.”

I asked Cooper what is the magic that keeps their stage show so exciting and energetic after four decades. “Good wives that are very supportive and love for our families. I wake up every morning looking for new ways to make my wife happy.”  He and his wife, Marion Cooper, have been married for 36 years, with four children and seven grandchildren.

He added, “Felton, Karl and I love making people laugh, cry with joy, and feel good. We eat healthy and stay away from drugs. You don’t need to be high to give a great show,” said Cooper. He said that they owe it to the people to give them an amazing show.

I asked how they create such a funky, jazzy and yet soft rock sound. “I come from a rough part of town. My mother had to work for 13 dollars a day to buy me a guitar. Felton’s mom was a preacher and his dad was a doctor. He grew up in an area where they were listening to rock bands like Blood Sweat and Tears. I had the rough edge and Felton added the pop element.”

Felton Pilate and Michael Cooper are not only the lead vocalists and musicians in the band, but they also wrote most of the hits. So, their paycheck was much larger than the other band members. “I wrote “Ffun” and “Shake and Dance with Me.”  Then Felton and I wrote “Chase Me.” Con Funk Shun’s front men’s royalty checks had gotten bigger and bigger.

“We all made two to three thousand a month for our shows, but Felton and I were getting $20,000 checks in the mail,” shared Cooper. This went on for over a year, which caused the Vallejo, California-based band to become funky with one another -meaning a bad stankin’ funky!

“The band felt they should be getting half of everything we make,” he said. Cooper and Pilate kept the hits coming, which led to another hit album. That meant even more money. So during the next meeting, the tension in the room was thick enough you could cut it with a knife. “The band finally said it’s gotta come to a head. So, Felton agreed to go and I went along with him.

In 1986 Con Funk Shun disbanded. Felton Pilate became a successful producer and songwriter for M.C. Hammer, and Michael Cooper had a great run as a solo artist with three hit albums. In 1993, Cooper’s manager called with some great news.  “He said, ‘I have a $25,000 concert you can play on New Year’s Eve, but you gotta play it as Con Funk Shun.’ I called Felton, Karl and Maceo and that’s all I needed. I restarted Con Funk Shun and we haven’t stopped since,’’ said an excited and pumped up Michael Cooper.

During this time, band member Karl Fuller became an ordained preacher. I asked Cooper if this was a conflict with Fuller’s church members, “Karl is an assistant pastor and when we’re local, his pastor is at every one of our shows. Their church is very active in the community. They worship the gospel, feed people, and more. And when it’s time to have some fun, they have some fun,” said Cooper.

As the interview was coming to an end, he shared one of the proudest moments in his 40-year career as a member of Con Funk Shun. “I was at the MGM Park in Las Vegas after meeting with Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak, and then going out into the audience, watching these two young rich and famous brothas, roll off and play Love’s Train! I knew that the divine Man himself was driving the car. I laughed and cried at the same time. And I haven’t done that since my dad’s funeral. I was in the audience with nine thousand people and Bruno Mars said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we have Michael Cooper of Con Funk Shun in the house.’ Then they hit the lyrics ‘All night can’t sleep,’ and my wife put her hand behind my head because she knew I was going to cry like a baby. I held my hands up to God the entire performance and I cried and laughed at the same time. Then all of these people laid hands on me,” Cooper said.

What was extremely cool about doing the interview with one of my favorite bands and singers, I noticed Cooper had headphones around his neck. Of course, I asked why. “After this interview, I’ll be putting these headphones back on to lay down vocals for Jingle Bell Rock on Con Funk Shun’s Christmas CD, which we are releasing ourselves through Amazon and iTunes. It’s called Home for Christmas, Con Funk Shun, and we’re releasing it on Halloween Day.” The legendary Funk band also plans on the release of their 12th studio album, “Smooth,” on Valentine’s Day, and he’s writing a book called, “In Love’s Train: The life, the love, the man, the music.”

“It’s a tell-it-all and then some. And all ain’t all bad. It’s a lot of good in it. I’m looking to get it out by fall of 2023.”

When not on  Con Funk Shun’s 40th Anniversary Tour, Michael Cooper is also a well respected part-time sheriff’s deputy in Solano County, California.

To schedule an interview or for more information, please contact Tonya Hawley, 770.380.0053 or 

My phenomenal Person of the Week is Michael Cooper of Con Funk Shun.

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