On July 22nd, 1941, George Clinton, one of the great innovators and instigators of funk music, was born. The world hasn’t been the same since. Though he got his start playing doo-wop music, it wasn’t long before the former staff songwriter for Motown found his true calling… he found the funk. Starting out as a clean-cut singer in traditional vocal groups, it wasn’t long before the turbulent ’60s and the nightly horror show of the Vietnam War had Clinton searching for an escape from the darkness.
Clinton was searching for a new sound, combining the best of the rock world with his soul and R&B roots. He found an amazingly diverse and talented array of collaborators in the process. Serving as the bright pulsing star around which the legendary super-group Parliament/Funkadelic would orbit, George Clinton has spent the last fifty years putting out music that will have people gettin’ down and groovy until the end of time.
After legal issues kept Clinton from using the name The Parliaments, he spun off the rhythm section, known as Funkadelic, into its own entity until the rights reverted to him. Envisioning this new permutation of his band to be a more music-focused act, Clinton helped shape a new sound building on the work of James Brown and Sly & The Family Stone. He merged rock, soul, and a playful spirit into something fresh and unique. Having managed to build Funkadelic into a respected act as well, he kept both names and eventually the group became known as simply P-Funk.
Never one to do anything halfway, Clinton and his bands explored the far reaches of time and space with their music, creating an entire universe full of freaky characters and personas adopted by the band. From the very beginning of Funkadelic, the band began crafting an epic tale of space-faring music gods who had come to help free our minds and bring us the funk. In honor of his birth/incorporation from the ethereal planes, we thought we would look at some of his funkier contributions to the world! Check out some of his most beloved works below.
Here’s a rare early clip of George Clinton with The Parliaments from 1969 with the one and only Eddie Hazel on guitar.
Here’s Funkadelic launching the space mythology that would underscore their career by asking the question “Mommy, What’s A Funkadelic” in 1970.
Besides guitar wizard Eddie Hazel, George Clinton gathered together some of the best players on the scene to his standard, including the legendary Bernie Worrell, who joined him on the following cut from 1971, the title track to the second Funkadelic album, Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow.
The following year Clinton allegedly told guitarist Eddie Hazel to play “as if he had just gotten the news his mother had passed away” and delivered the spoken word intro to the epic guitar solo that would result on the track “Maggot Brain.”
While Clinton has made it his mission to get the world out on the dance floor, he’s never been one to shy away from more serious topics, though he still manages to keep a playful sense of humor in the material. Here he is with Funkadelic, discussing racism and the growing need for black representation in the government on “Chocolate City”.
Earthly concerns were forgotten soon after, though as George Clinton and Parliament would finally reveal their cosmic origins on the 1975 platinum-selling release, Mothership Connection. The album featured bassist Bootsy Collins, poached from James Brown‘s band, and solidified the band’s reputation as the kings of funk and a live show not to be missed. Check out this live version of “Mothership Connection (Star Child)” by Parliament from 1976.
The music George Clinton and his many friends created did more than just get people moving and thinking, it inspired an entire generation of sample heavy hip hop artists who would follow in the years to come. Snoop Dogg built some of his most popular early works on the bones of P-Funk tunes, including the beloved “Flash Light.” Clinton has remained tapped into contemporary hip-hop and even proclaimed artists like Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, and Flying Lotus to be “the new generation of funk musicians.”
[Video: P-Funk on MV]
Though he has had numerous, well-documented troubles over the years with past bandmates, his health and his addictions, George Clinton has spent his life in the service of the funk. He sought out and recruited a veritable army of top-notch musicians and colorful characters to help him make music that not only moves the heart, but helps remove the pain and anxiety of the modern world. Happy birthday, George!
[Originally published 7/22/16]