Songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer Steven Greenberg created Lipps, Inc., who had a two million-selling number one pop/number two R&B hit with "Funkytown." The Minneapolis native began playing drums at 15; by 20 he had written and produced his first record. When the record stiffed, Greenberg began getting pressure to go into the family business. Instead, for the next several years, Greenberg joined local groups and developed his musicianship. Later, he started a mobile disco business. In 1979, Greenberg wrote, played all the music except for bass, and produced "Rock It" and had 500 records pressed. His efforts paid off when "Rock It" was a hit on local radio station KFMX. During the summer, Greenberg began auditioning female vocalists for a group he wanted to start named Lipps Inc.
Twenty-four-year-old Cynthia Johnson, a secretary with the police department, heard about the auditions and sent him a demo. Johnson, who sang weekends with a band called Flyte Time, probably didn't know that two of her bandmates, keyboardist James Harris III and bassist Terry Lewis, would later become superstar producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Johnson started singing as a child in Mount Olivet Baptist Church. At eight, she started to play the saxophone after her school's music teacher assigned it to her after all of the "girlie" instruments had been taken by the other students. Her mother, a 3M chemist was mortified at this situation, so Johnson had to practice her sax clandestinely. Years later, her formidable sax-playing skills helped her win the title Miss Black Minnesota USA of 1976.
After recording a demo together and submitting copies to various record labels, Greenberg and Johnson watched the rejection notices come in, until Bruce Bird at Casablanca took an interest. Lipps Inc.'s debut album Mouth to Mouth was released fall 1979, with the single "Funkytown" parking at number two R&B for five weeks and number one pop for four weeks on Billboard's charts during spring 1980, earning an RIAA platinum certification for sales of over two million singles. Mouth to Mouth went gold, peaking at number five R&B, number five pop in spring 1980. Quite a showing for an act's first major release. Lipps Inc.'s other singles were "Rock It," "How Long," "Hold Me Down," and "Addicted to the Night." Their second LP, Pucker Up, charted number 37 R&B in fall 1980.
In spite of the huge success of "Funkytown," Greenberg and Johnson chose to remain in Minneapolis (as did Johnson's former bandmates, Jam and Lewis) instead of moving to New York or Los Angeles. Paradoxically, given "Funkytown"'s "I gotta get outta here" theme, but understandable.
Since its initial success, "Funkytown" has appeared on movie and TV soundtracks and TV ad campaigns.