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Black Music Month in Focus: George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic

This is part of The Shadow League’s Black Music Month In Focus series celebrating the vibrating musical excellence within our wide cultural tapestry.

I found out about Parliament Funkadelic and George Clinton through Dr. Dre. 

Clearly, that is a backward approach to understanding musical history but alas, as a child of the ’80s who matured in the ’90s, The Chronic album was my textbook.

After hearing the classic single, Let Me Ride, I wondered what inspired the supersonic melody and futuristic chord structure. In the music video closing, scenes from an old concert featuring Afrocentric alien life forms intrigued me further. They were joined gloriously by the arrival of a giant metallic mothership and the cipher was complete. This was a movement. The G-Funk era that birthed the funky gangsta sound of Warren G, Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube was inspired by a group of musician misfits known collectively as Parliament and Funkadelic.

The genius behind the two groups was microphone maestro, songwriter and producer George Clinton, who became the connector of worlds both real and imagined. Clinton and his crew broke every conventional rule in the music industry. They made songs that were not contained to standard radio length and sometimes went a full 10-15 minutes if they were feeling themselves. The crew was a pre-Roots and Wu-Tang-styled collective that embraced pure musicianship and quirky genius.

Each band was different as well. Where Funkadelic is a psychedelic rock band with a Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin-infused vibe, Parliament is a funky R&B centered sound that meshed with Clintons Motown songwriting roots. The two bands used the same musicians constantly, which made it easy to tour both bands simultaneously. The ultimate outcome was an unofficial melding of the groups into one by fans and the collective became known as Parliament-Funkadelic.

Parliament Funkadelic – One Nation Under A Groove (docu 2005)

One Nation Under A Groove – P-Funk Documentary 2005 Known to its legions of fans simply as P-Funk, Parliament Funkadelic has had a profound impact on the development of contemporary music, aesthetics and culture.

But it gets deeper than that. The sounds began to be considered its own derivative of funk and the term P-Funk was coined to describe the Afro-futuristic sub-genre. At its core, P-Funk was bigger than George Clinton as he assembled expert musicians with great lineages to be a part of this epic collective. The lineup included future greats like keyboardist Bernie Worrell, bassist William “Bootsie Collins, guitarist Garry Shider, and The Horny Horns.

They created reoccurring staple characters like Dr. Funkenstein and his arch-enemy Sir Nose DVoidoffunk. 

Sir Nose is the antithesis of anything cool that is completely devoid of anything related to the funk, replete with an oversized nose to solidify the point. However, the greatest creation of the P-Funk era is The Holy Mothership, which was the vehicle of Dr. Funkenstein and his agents of Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication. Clinton became the character and the vessel was his interpretation of blacks in space, entering into a higher level of consciousness.

The iconic 1976 flight of the mothership at the Houston Astrodome while Starchild bellows swing low, sweet chariot stop, and let me ride is now a classic moment forzen in musical history. The mothership now lives in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Parliament – Mothership Connection (Star Child) – Live Houston 1976

Full version of Mothership Connection (Star Child) by Parliament live at Houston 1976.

With a slew of hits spanning 40 years that include Paint The White House Black, Flashlight, Atomic Dog and more, the world owes its gratitude to the platform-heel-wearing funksters. History has repeated itself so many times with Clinton and P-Funk, from the ’90s G-Funk era and Da Brats Funkdafied album to the Black Hippy collective helmed by Kendrick Lamar Aaa Kung Fu Kenny. 

One need to look no further than his To Pimp A Butterfly album to see Clinton’s fingerprints.

If your not hip, I suggest you take some time to put yourself in the fourth dimension and allow yourself to get funked up.

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