There's a good time waiting for you, come on and let's get free!
— Funkadelic, "Good To Your Earhole"
Make my funk the P-Funk, I wants to get funked up
I want the bomb, I want the P-Funk, I want my funk uncut.
— Parliament, "P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)"
George Clinton is a famous and acclaimed Funk
musician. If James Brown
was the pioneer
of funk, George Clinton was the man who arguably fulfilled its potential
as the driving force of Parliament-Funkadelic. He is known foremost for his conceptual vision, socially conscious lyrics and production skills. The bands themselves are famous for their excellent musicianship, fierce live performances and outlandish albums boasting satirical comic-book artwork, its most famous covers being the ones drawn by Pedro Bell and Overton Loyd. Besides being considered a member of funk's "holy trinity" (alongside James Brown
and Sly Stone), he's also the second or third most sampled
musician, depending on who's counting.
George Clinton was born in 1941 in Kannapolis, North Carolina and grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey
. After some time in a barber salon, he became a staff songwriter for Motown, while fronting a small-time doo-wop group named The Parliaments, which had a hit in 1967 with "(I Wanna) Testify". But this band disintegrated, and Clinton instead formed Funkadelic, a band which played a combination of psychedelic rock and funk, influenced by other famous musicians such as Jimi Hendrix
, James Brown and Sly & the Family Stone.
Signed with Westbound Records, they released several records starting in 1970 and gained a small following. The same year, Clinton decided to expand with an off-shoot group named Parliament
, which featured most of the musicians from Funkadelic, and originally covered much of the same musical ground before both groups moved away from psychedelic rock and became more funk-oriented. More spinoffs, including The Brides of Funkenstein
followed. And later Bootsy Collins started his own career with Bootsy's Rubber Band
The period of 1975-1979 is widely considered Parliament-Funkadelic's "classic period", when they released a string of concept albums full of bizarre spacey imagery and their own mythology
, which were critically acclaimed and commercially successful, backed by an elaborate stage show that rivaled Pink Floyd
. The same period resulted in a stream of side-projects and more off-shoots, out of which only Bootsy's Rubber Band earned any comparable success or visibility.
The P-Funk collective began disintegrating at the start of the 1980s as a result of Clinton's drug problems and financial problems stemming from the two groups' unwieldy size. They were disbanded as a result of complicated label politics, and Clinton started a solo career, gaining a 1982 hit album in Computer Games
and the #1 single "Atomic Dog". He has continued to tour and record since with many of the same musicians under the name "P-Funk All Stars", largely due to legal issues preventing him from using "Parliament" or "Funkadelic" after 1980. The "P-Funk All Stars" nowadays contain both old P-Funk standbys and new musicians.
Not to be confused with Bill Clinton
ran quite a few stories during The Nineties
that played on the similarity), vice president George Clinton
, or the decidedly white and not-very-funky soundtrack composer George S. Clinton
Had an appearance As Himself
The most famous songs recorded by the collective include:
- Parliament - "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)", "Flash Light", "P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)", "Mothership Connection (Star Child)", "Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop)", "Funkentelechy", "Dr. Funkenstein", "Chocolate City", "Bop Gun (Endangered Species)", and others.
- Funkadelic - "One Nation Under a Groove", "(Not Just) Knee Deep", "Maggot Brain", "Cosmic Slop", "Get Off Your Ass and Jam", and others.
- George Clinton - "Atomic Dog", "Man's Best Friend/Loopzilla", "Do Fries Go with That Shake", and others.
An almost certainly unfinished list of all the personnel who were part of the Parliament-Funkadelic collective and offshoots throughout its history:
- George Clinton - vocals, keyboards, synths, Record Producer, mastermind. P-Funk just wouldn't exist without him. Famous for his outlandish costumes and rainbow dreadlocks. Randall Munroe tried to start a rumour that he had a Ph.D in Mathematics. The Onion are also fans.
- Eddie Hazel - guitar. Considered one of the most influential black guitarists ever. Later left the band, returned, toured sporadically, died in 1992.
- Michael Hampton aka "Kidd Funkadelic" - guitar. Joined the band in 1976 as a replacement for Hazel. Has a slightly heavier rock style.
- Phelps Collins aka "Catfish" - guitar. Joined the band alongside his more famous brother Bootsy. Former member of James Brown's band.
- DeWayne McKnight aka "Blackbird" - guitar. Joined in the late seventies, largely serves as lead guitarist in live shows. Retired in 2008. Once joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but that didn't pan out and he got replaced by John Frusciante.
- Lucius Ross aka "Tawl" - rhythm guitar between 1968-1971. Played on the first 3 Funkadelic albums.
- Clarence Haskins aka "Fuzzy" - vocals, guitar, drums. Founding member of Funkadelic, left in 1977 along with Calvin Simon and Grady Thomas due to financial disputes with Clinton.
- Garry Shider - vocals, guitar. Known for his "Diaper Man" persona on stage, lead vocalist on some of the ensemble's more famous songs like "Cosmic Slop". Died in 2010 of cancer.
- Glen Goins - vocals, bass, guitar, drums. Known for calling in the Mothership at the start of P-Funk shows. Left the band over disputes with Clinton (seeing a pattern here?) in 1978, but died the same year before being able to release any solo material.
- William Collins (better known as "Bootsy") - bass, vocals, guitar, drums. Initially a member of James Brown's band, came to P-Funk with his brother Catfish circa 1972. Famous for his basslines, his "space bass", his cartoonish suits (complete with top hats) that would later be seen on Public Enemy's Flava Flav and rapper T-Pain, and his instantly recognizable, goofy voice. Later formed Bootsy's Rubber Band. Average listeners probably know him for the vocals he contributed to Deee-lite's "Groove Is in the Heart" and cameo in the video (Deee-lite have definitely been known to smoke... on stage that is! *slide whistle*).
- William Nelson aka "Billy Bass" - bass, guitar. Original member of Funkadelic, first to leave the band in 1971 over financial disputes with Clinton.
- Cordell Mosson aka "Boogie" - bass. Joined Funkadelic circa 1972 and became the ensemble's second bassist after Bootsy.
- Prakash John - bass
- Bernie Worrell - keyboards, synths. Played an important part in arranging the ensemble's songs, known for his high-pitched spacey Minimoog lines that tend to be ripped off so often by gangsta rappers. Also played for the Talking Heads in The Eighties, appearing in Stop Making Sense.
- Walter Morrison aka "Junie" - keyboards, synths, vocals. Former Ohio Players member, came to P-Funk in 1977, served as musical director in some capacity.
- Jerome Brailey aka "Bigfoot" - drums, percussion. In the ensemble between 1975-1978.
- Ramon Fulwood aka "Tiki" - drums, percussion. Part of Funkadelic's original lineup until his dismissal in 1971. Died in 1979 of stomach cancer.
- Maceo Parker - alto and baritone saxophone, flute. Joined in 1975. Also played for James Brown and Prince.
- Fred Wesley - trombone. Bandmate of Parker's with James Brown, came along with Parker in 1975.
- Ray Davis aka "Stingray" - vocals. Known for his distinctive bass voice. Later left P-Funk and joined The Temptations circa 1995. Died in 2005. Please don't confuse him with the guy from The Kinks.
- Calvin Simon - vocals. Original band member since way back in The Fifties when they were The Parliaments. Left in 1977 over financial disputes.
- Grady Thomas - vocals. Member of The Parliaments, left in 1977 with Haskins and Simon.
- Phillippe Wynne - vocals
- Mallia Franklin - vocals.
- Lynn Mabry - vocals. Member of The Brides of Funkenstein.
- Dawn Silva - vocals. Member of The Brides of Funkenstein.
- Jeanette Washington - vocals.
- Debbie Wright - vocals
- Shirley Hayden - vocals
- 1970 - Funkadelic
- 1970 - Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow
- 1971 - Maggot Brain
- 1972 - America Eats Its Young
- 1973 - Cosmic Slop
- 1974 - Standing on the Verge of Getting It On
- 1975 - Let's Take It to the Stage
- 1976 - Hardcore Jollies
- 1976 - Tales of Kidd Funkadelic
- 1978 - One Nation Under a Groove
- 1979 - Uncle Jam Wants You
- 1981 - The Electric Spanking of War Babies
- 2007 - By Way Of The Drum
- 1970 - Osmium
- 1974 - Up for the Down Stroke
- 1975 - Chocolate City
- 1975 - Mothership Connection
- 1976 - The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein
- 1977 - Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome
- 1978 - Motor Booty Affair
- 1979 - Gloryhallastoopid
- 1980 - Trombipulation
George Clinton solo discography:
- 1982 - Computer Games
- 1983 - You Shouldn't-Nuf Bit Fish
- 1985 - Some of My Best Jokes Are Friends
- 1986 - R&B Skeletons in the Closet
- 1989 - The Cinderella Theory
- 1993 - Hey Man, Smell My Finger
- 1993 - Dope Dogs
- 1996 - Testing Positive
- 1996 - T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M.note
- 2005 - How Late Do U Have 2BB4UR Absent?
- 2008 - George Clinton and His Gangsters of Love
The P-Funk collective provides examples of the following tropes:
- Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: "March to the Witch's Castle" (Justified in the line, "Help him understand that when his loved one remarried, they were truly under the impression that he was dead and would never return").
- Careful With That Axe: A few times in "Bop Gun (Endangered Species)".
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Oh yeah. Listen to some of his lyrics, read his song titles... hell, just look at his hair. "Eccentric" is putting it mildly. Probably because of all the drugs.
- Concept Album: An entire P-Funk mythology, as a matter of fact.
- Contemptible Cover: Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow.
- Continuity Nod: Clinton has a habit of recycling his older melodies in new contexts. For example: The Funkadelic song "Red Hot Mama" borrows the melody from their older song "I Bet You", and the Parliament Song "Do That Stuff" takes a riff from "You Can't Miss What You Can't Measure" by Funkadelic. And we haven't mentioned how many lines he recycles between albums as a Mythology Nod.
- Cover Album: George Clinton and His Gangsters of Love
- Cover Drop: The title tracks of Maggot Brain and Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow.
- Crunchtastic: Oh, man, Clinton loves long compound funny words - "Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication", "Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop", "Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (The Doo Doo Chasers)" (longest compound song title ever?).
- Deader Than Disco: Clinton and co. invoked this trope by taking shots at disco in the late seventies, even declaring their mission to be "rescuing dance music from the blahs" on Uncle Jam Wants You.
- Echoing Acoustics
- Epic Rocking: "One Nation Under a Groove", "Mommy, What's a Funkadelic?", "What Is Soul", "Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow", "Maggot Brain", "Promentalshitbackwashenemapsychosis Squad (The Doo-Doo Chasers)", "Bop Gun (Endangered Species)", "Flash Light", "Aqua Boogie (Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop)", "Deep" ...and that's just a few.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: In "Bop Gun".
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: "We love to funk you, Funkenstein!" They use this play on words more than once.
- Gratuitous Panning
- Ice-Cream Koan: Is there funk after death? George Clinton says... "Is Seven Up?"
- Image Song: "Mommy, What's a Funkadelic?"
- Intercourse with You: "Loose Booty", "I Call My Baby Pussycat", "Miss Lucifer's Love", "Nappy Dugout", "Trash A-Go-Go", "Red Hot Mama", "Alice in My Fantasies", "Sexy Ways", "No Head No Backstage Pass". Those are just the Funkadelic songs.
- "Loose Booty" is actually about the aftereffects of taking drugs that have been cut with laxatives.
- In The Style Of: "Maggot Brain" somewhat imitates Jimi Hendrix. Early albums (1970-1972) owed quite a bit to the influence of Motown's psychedelic soul bands and hard funk.
- Ironic Nursery Rhyme: Clinton likes to take nursery rhymes and turn them into drug references, and it's all Played for Laughs instead of scary. For instance, Funkadelic's "Let's Take it to the Stage" offers us this warped take:
Little miss muffet sat on her tuffet snorting some THC
Along came a spider, slid down beside her
Said, "What's in the bag, bitch?"
- And Parliament's "Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk" has:
Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
- Last Chorus Slow Down: A bit of a subversion: "Nappy Dugout" speeds up the drumbeat at the end.
- Last Note Nightmare: The crashing effects of "Wars of Armageddon".
- Looney Tunes: Theme quoted in "Sir Nose D'Voidofunk"
- Looped Lyrics
- Money Song: Subversion, as most of their songs criticize materialism. Best known examples: "Funky Dollar Bill", "You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks" and "Cosmic Slop" (the last two are about poverty).
- Obligatory Bondage Song: "Handcuffs". Apparently it's a parody of hyper-macho R&B.
- The Power of Rock: Er, Funk. Refer to mythology.
- Who Says a Funk Band Can't Play Rock?!
- Pop Star Composer: Muppets in Space.
- Protest Song: "Funky Dollar Bill", "Better By The Pound", "The Placebo Syndrome" and "Wizard of Finance" criticise the American society's materialism and complacency. "March to the Witch's Castle" is about scarred Vietnam War veterans returning to Americanote and questioning their involvement in the war. "If You Don't Like the Effects, Don't Produce the Cause" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. "You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks" is a call for unity among the disadvantaged. "Cosmic Slop" is about a mother who becomes a prostitute to feed her children.
- Revolving Door Band
- Sampling: G-funksters and gangsta rappers lifted bits of the music for their own tracks in the early 90s.
- Word of God seems to be very supportive of sampling saying on a recent podcast that it's been one of the only thing keeping his bands on the radio and heard in recent years.
- Scatting: "Night of The Thumpasorus Peoples". All together now: "Gaga goo ga, gaga goo ga... Gaga goo ga ga..."
- Silly Love Songs: "I Wanna Know If It's Good to You", "Can You Get to That", "Let's Make It Last", "Baby I Owe You Something Good", "I Misjudged You".
- Single Mom Prostitute: Played for Drama in "Cosmic Slop".
- Spoken Word In Music + Studio Chatter - So much it's easy to forget there are also sung lyrics.
- Stage Names
- Take That: "Let's Take It to the Stage" contains jokes at the expense of various funk bands like Slick and the Family Prick, Sloofus, Fool and the Gang, or Earth Hot Air and No Fire. Also insinuates that the 17 minute gap in the Watergate tapes was erased because that's where Richard Nixon recorded himself doing drugs.
- Title Drop: Twice in Free Your Mind…'s title track. The first inverts it: "I can't free my mind, so my ass can't follow…"
- Title Only Chorus
The P-Funk mythology provides examples of:
- Big Bad: Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk.
- Big Damn Heroes: Mr. Wiggles and the citizens of Atlantis.
- BFG: The Bop Gun.
- Boss Battle: the confrontation on Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome.
- Call Back: Too many Mythology Nods to count.
- Evil Is Dumb: Sir Nose.
- Evil Is Hammy: Sir Nose again.
- Heroic Archetype: Starchild, Mr. Wiggles.
- I Am Song: "Behold, I am Funkadelic/I am not of your world/but fear not, I will do you no harm..."
- "I Want" Song: "Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk (Pay Attention - B3M)"
- It Runs on Nonsensoleum: Try reading the full mythology without experiencing this or What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Sure, he's a sucker who can't dance or swim and wants to impose the Zone of Zero Funkativity on humanity, but Sir Nose is so incompetent you wonder why Starchild even bothers.
- Laughing Mad: Sir Nose yet again.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: both the amount of bandmembers and in its mythology.
- Mad Scientist: Dr. Funkenstein.
- Messianic Archetype: Star Child.
- Narcissist: Dr. Funkenstein, whose song gives us lines like, "Kiss me on my ego!" and "Let me hear it for me!". Nevermind that everything his back-up singers say is a barely-veiled euphemism for Dr. Funkenstein being good in the sack.
- Punny Name: Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk (say it out loud).
- Redemption Quest: Sir Nose traces his ancestry.
- Super Drowning Skills: Sir Nose, who is of course too cool to dance or swim.
- Villain Song: "Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk (Pay Attention - B3M)", "Rumpofsteelskin"