George Clinton on cutthroat music biz, highs and lows of being P-Funk ringleader

Aretha Franklin and James Brown may be known as the queen of soul and the godfather of soul, respectively, but when it comes to funk, attention always gravitates to one person: George Clinton.

Give up the funk: George Clinton and Bootsy Collins

Give up the funk: George Clinton (left) and Bootsy Collins

Much like a chameleon, he’s taken on many forms over the years, but be it alter egos such as the Prime Minister of Funk, The King of Interplanetary Funksmanship or just plain Dr. Funkenstein, Clinton has literally done it all, survived and come back to deliver more.

On Nov. 29, he was interviewed on Greasy Tracks where he candidly discussed his new memoir — written with Ben Greenman — Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? (Atria Books) and soon-to-be-released new album, First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate (The C Kunspyruhzy).

Access archives of the P-Funk spotlight and Clinton interview here.
George_Book2

Some tall and amazing tales in a manageable form: George Clinton’s memoir: Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? is out now. (Book cover photo courtesy Altria Books)

He pulled no punches when he talked about the oft-cutthroat music business and said that if there was one thing he would have done differently in his life, it would have been focusing more on business than on drugs.

Over the years, Clinton has had a diverse group of quality musicians in the Parliament-Funkadelic stable, by admitted that he wished he could have collaborated with Jimi Hendrix.

He spoke at length about a trio of guitarists — Eddie Hazel, Michael Hampton and Dewayne “Blackbyrd” McKnight — who made important contributions when it came to defining and refining the P-Funk sound. McKnight and Hampton contributed to the latest release. Hampton continues to tour with Clinton and remains the longest-serving P-Funk guitarist having joined as a 17-year-old in 1975.

Clinton — who once owed/worked in a barber shop and was briefly a staff writer for Motown — formed one of his earliest groups, The Parliaments — a doo-wop styled combo heavily influenced by Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers, in 1955.

The Parliaments would serve as the foundation for the groups Clinton would be best known for in the future: Funkedelic, which was formed in 1969, and Parliament, a more vocal-oriented line-up with many members of Funkedelic in tow, in 1970. He would operate both bands, nearly simultaneously releasing albums from each and touring extensively while also engaging in side projects for much of the 1970s as his groups became massively successful on the charts and in larger and larger arenas as live acts.

Standing on the verge of getting it on in the U.K.: Funkadelic in Liverpool during a 1971 tour. Fuzzy Haskins, Tawl Ross, Bernie Worrell, Tiki Fulwood, Grady Thomas, George Clinton, Ray Davis, Calvin Simon and seated Eddie Hazel and Billy "Bass" Nelson.Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Standing on the verge of getting it on in the U.K.: Funkadelic in Liverpool during a 1971 tour stop. From left, Fuzzy Haskins, Tawl Ross, Bernie Worrell, Tiki Fulwood, Grady Thomas, George Clinton, Ray Davis, Calvin Simon and seated Eddie Hazel and Billy “Bass” Nelson. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

He’s influenced many bands and tracks such as “(I Wanna) Testify,” “Atomic Dog,” “Flashlight,” “Maggot Brain” and “One Nation Under A Groove” are easily identified by fans from across multiple genres, reinforcing how Clinton and his extensive catalog cannot be pigeonholed to a specific category.

Named after a brand of cigarettes: The Parliaments, circa 1966, with Ray Davis, Calvin Simon, Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins, Grady Thomas and George Clinton

Named after a brand of cigarettes: The Parliaments, circa 1966, were inspired by Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers. From left, Ray Davis, Calvin Simon, Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins, Grady Thomas and George Clinton. The group served as the foundation for Clinton’s biggest successes in the years that followed: Funkadelic and Parliament.

An inductee to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 with Parliament-Funkedelic, Clinton weathered years of substance abuse, but has cleaned up his act and is back on the road at the helm of P-Funk as they continue to spread the funk.

Now in its 20th year, Greasy Tracks is the longest-running soul and blues radio program in Connecticut, usually airing on Saturday, 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Comments are closed.