Damn it, how time flies… Last time I saw George Clinton brings me back to a memorable concert he graced us with during the MIDEM in Cannes back at the beginning of the 90’s. And even longer when he and his Funkadelic bandmates released their last album! This would be ‘The Electric Spanking Of War Babies’, released at a time – Apr. 14, 1981 – when MTV happened to broadcast their first videos during the Ronald Reagan presidency in the United States, when François Mitterrand was readying himself to become the President of France, just a year before the Brits and the Argentinians got to fight in the Falklands! In other words, what would feel like prehistory to many of you… Time that would come as an addition to an already long period that saw Clinton switching his professional activities from a barber to a Funk Music icon, beginning as a Doo-Wop singer alongside The Parliaments, a group he founded back in 1955, which he named after the cigarette brand. “The first thing you did after you got a group together was to name it. There weren’t really endless options”, recalled Clinton. “Vocal groups were, for most of them, named after birds, cars and cigarettes. I picked up cigarettes, even though I didn’t smoke. I told my father that I liked the looks of them once when I was about eight and he made me smoke a whole pack of Camels, which cured my taste for them immediately. With the same thing happening with alcohol: I tried it when I was 10 or 11 and my father made me drink a pint of Wild Turkey to prove a point, which got me sick enough to require a hospital visit!”
The Parliaments evolved into Parliament–Funkadelic and in the 1970s, Clinton became a major influence in the worlds of Psychedelic Rock, Techno and Funk with the hit albums ‘Mothership Connection’ and ‘One Nation Under A Groove’. Not so surprising considering his interest in all the major trends of music, from traditional R&B to the Psychedelic Rock as fronted by Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa, not to mention the seminal Funk of James Brown and Sly Stone, making him the ambassador of a genre on its own named the P-Funk at the end of the seventies.
From then, Clinton would become himself an influence to the upcoming generations from Hip-Hop producer Dr Dre to G-Funk famous Snoop Dogg with whom he’s working on a new movie called ‘Dope Dogs’, respected by many of his pairs beginning with Prince who happened to sign him for some time to his Paisley Park record label…
With 60 years of makin’ music, and most of in in and around the Detroit area where he located in the mid-60’s to be a staff writer at Motown, one would think you got enough material to write a book, although he admitted he wasn’t in a hurry. The starting point of ‘Brothas Be, Yo Like George Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?’ which got released last October to be found on a legal statement by a former employee of Bridgeport Music, a publishing company Clinton claims is one of many businesses he got affiliated with who cheated him out of royalties and other resources…
“I wanted to get that out there”, he said. “But once I started remembering all the things we’ve gone through, I realized it was a pretty good story and would be a great book, so we just moved forward. It has been a lot of fun telling the story…
As a matter of fact, I thought I could make music that would make people want to take care of the business right and everything would be good. But that’s not true. There are greedy people who, no matter how much they get, want it all.” Music however would remain Clinton‘s antidote to depressions of all sorts, with the book filled with souvenirs of his bandmates, touring adventures and incredible concerts.
“I guess we’ve been lucky so far”, Clinton explained on Macombdaily.com. “Funk has been the DNA for all the Dance Music of the last 25 years, so we’ve been able to be included in every new genre that came along and we’ve been able to forge relationships with almost every new Dance Music form, be it Disco, Hip-Hop, Techno, Acid Jazz, or whatever…”
With the help of Ben Greeman, Clinton put together a fascinating collection of insights about his life, sex and drug-fueled 70’s & 80’s period in addition to the music industry. With the help of some artists he influenced – Snoop Dogg, Boston-based Nu-Disco pair Soul Clap – and long time collaborators – Sly Stone, Bernie Worrell – he then would put together a 3 disc collection – ‘First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate’ – under the Funkadelic banner comprising 33 tracks in total, which has been explained to mirror the 33 years that had elapsed since Funkadelic’s last official album release in 1981. A package digitally released on November 25, 2014 followed by the CD 2 days before last Christmas.
Of the latter, Clinton said: “It’s been 33 years since a legitimate Funkadelic record, The Electric Spanking of the War Babies, has been out. A lot of it is from the band, but I also have everybody from my kids and grandkids to Sly Stone, Kim Burrell and El DeBarge on there. It’s a package!!!”
For the House heads, Louie Vega has remixed ‘Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?’ which he introduced recently to the crowd while spinning in South Africa. meanwhile Clinton and cohorts are set to start a massive worldwide tour beginning On Feb. 11, 2015 in Atlanta, GA with the last date so far due to take place on Aug. 20 in Las Vegas, NV. [More info…]
Front pic: George Clinton & Sly Stone
‘Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?: A Memoir’ (Atria Books; $27).