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Taken from azcentral (Aug 10, 2019)

George Clinton is on his final Parliament-Funkadelic Tour, but his music will live on

by Ed Masley


George Clinton. PhotoCredit: William Thoren
George Clinton. PhotoCredit: William Thoren


George Clinton is feeling perplexed.


At 78, the funk legend is headed to Phoenix on a farewell tour with the latest edition of Parliament-Funkadelic, which now includes his son, his daughter and a number of his grandkids.


"It's weird," Clinton says, "because everything's getting so hot. I mean, the shows are selling out. The band is hot. It's been great having a chance to see what the young kids are doing and how to make that work within the P-Funk band, and we've come up with some new things that's really working."


That's what makes him so perplexed, he says, "'cause yeah I'm ready to retire, but it's getting so interesting out here with the people loving all the different things we're doing. But it's their turn now."


The plan is for the P-Funk name to carry on without him.


"I've just got to get them together to make sure they keep going," Clinton says. "Because they're not retiring."


He's still deciding who he thinks should run things when he comes in off the road.


"I've got all my grandkids and my son and daughter in there," Clinton says. "So I'm trying to figure out, like a reality show, who's gonna be the one to do that."


In a recent chat with Rolling Stone, Clinton said he still feels like he did in the '50s and '60s, when he was just starting out.


"That's what's confusing," he says. "It's still exciting. We were actually inspired to do the new Parliament album we have out, 'Medicaid Fraud Dogg.' And people took to it so well; you just feel like you can do it again."


He never said he was saying goodbye to the studio.


"I'm gonna keep doing that," Clinton says. "I'm gonna keep producing and do some cartoons. I'm in that 'Trolls 2' movie. And then you've got Samuel L. Jackson playing me in this movie about Neil Bogart at Casablanca, 'Spinning Gold.'"


'Under a Groove' lives on


For now, though, he's focused on saying goodbye to the road on the One Nation Under a Groove Tour, a title it shares with Funkadelic's biggest-selling album and first song to top the R&B charts.


"That was the first master and publishing that I got back in the recapturing of my music in all the copyright fights," he says. "That's the one album I own. So that gave me the inspiration to keep fighting for the copyrights, which is what I've been doing for the last two years."


Asked if he has any thoughts on why that single blew up like it did back in '78, he says, "I think the promise of uniting, everybody being on the one together, everything coming together, people being as one."


It's a message Clinton said is resonating even more today.


"We were so hot when we put it out; it was just like one big mother ship," he says. "The songs individually have a chance to stand out on their own now."


As to whether a country as deeply divided as the USA could come together as one nation under a groove again, Clinton remains optimistic.


"I really do believe it because when the love is spread, it's contagious," he says. "And it's been like funky church lately - people just having fun, letting go and dancing, no regrets and do the best you can and funk it. Young kids and people my age out there jumping around, you know, with new life.


The birth of Parliament and Funkadelic


Clinton was born in 1941 in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and he grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey, forming a doo-wop group called the Parliaments in the backroom of a barber shop while in his teens. They'd been together for more than a decade by the time they scored a breakthrough hit in 1967 with "(I Wanna) Testify."


When the label that put out the record filed for bankruptcy, the Parliaments lost the right to use their name, so Clinton changed the name to Funkadelic.


"That was out of necessity," he says of releasing his music as two separate entities, starting in 1970 with Funkadelic's self-titled debut and Parliament's "Osmium."


"We couldn't use the name Parliament with the record company," Clinton says. "They'd shut you down. So the same 10 people became Funkadelic. And then when Parliament gets clear of that legal stuff, you've got both names available, so I realized it was best to have two names to work off of because nobody can control you that way."


Clinton arrived at his vision of funk in the '60s, he says, because he saw an opening.


"It was nothing left in the '60s once Motown had peaked and then you get this European invasion of rock and roll," he says, "with bands that took the blues side of it and the rock and roll side of it. But nobody was into that mid-tempo groove. New Orleans did it, but none of the rock groups was doing that. So we took that, 'cause that was the funk part of things. New Orleans and Motown. When you put a bass on the bottom of that, that's the funkiest music there is. And we put rock 'n' roll guitars on top of it and called it Funkadelic."


Once they got Funkadelic up and grooving, Clinton says, "Bootsy (Collins) shows up, coming from James Brown, and he bring horns with him - Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker. So we had the best of all the worlds of sound, you know - the Motown, the James Brown, the Jimi Hendrix and the doo-wop from where I came. And we just mixed that (expletive) together."


From the start, the two groups had their own distinct approach. As Clinton says, "The psychedelic rock and roll and outlandish stuff was basically Funkadelic. Parliament was real slick and polished. It would be outlandish in concept, but those were really slick productions."


Is Clinton willing to acknowledge that "One Nation Under a Groove" could just as easily have been Parliament?


He laughs and says, "I think we blurred the line a little right there. But we had so many hit records with Parliament at that exact moment that it had to be a Funkadelic record. It needed to be a Funkadelic record, especially with the army 'Uncle Jam Wants You' type of group image. That's when we went into the fatigues and stuff."


That new image, he says, was "mainly because we'd been on the road so long with the (P-Funk) Mothership that we was tired of carrying all those props around. We called 'One Nation' the anti-tour. No limousines. No buses. We set up our own equipment. Just because it happened so fast. We wasn't ready to build another space prop for that. We was trying to do 'Motor Booty Affair' underwater. And all of the sudden, 'One Nation' happened out of left field."


His own version of Motown


Clinton says he drew a bit on what he'd learned as a staff songwriter at Motown Records when he put his groups together.


"I always felt like our group was a small carbon copy of Motown," he says. "I had different members in the band like different artists in that company. So I could style the group in any direction I wanted to go in 'cause all the musicians was so good. Most of them were from Plainfield, New Jersey, at the time. And then the rest of the people we took them from Baltimore and Cincinnati."


Hip-hop took kept the P-Funk sound alive, introducing the groove to a new generation by "cloning the funk," as Clinton calls it.


"I was part of that right with them," Clinton says. "And it proved that the funk stayed alive all the time. And now we were back in it commercially and relevant."


It felt good being sampled, he says, "because the only other way you was gonna hear your record was on those K-Tel packages on TV where you didn't get nothing for it. At least this way they was getting attention brought to you if you knew how to get involved. And so I started helping them. I started giving them the samples without the horns in the way. Even though I couldn't get paid for it, I mean, the people were still stealing it from me, but finally I'm doing alright with that. I got the copyright recaptured. I recaptured most of the songs now."


Asked if he thinks funk is in a healthy place as he prepares to come in off the road, Clinton says, "Oh yeah. With the Flying Lotuses and the Kendrick Lamars and Bruno Mars. And the internet. It's in a good place."


In deciding what songs to play onstage each night on his farewell tour, Clinton says, "You have to mix the historical songs along with the new ones that you know is working with everybody, the new ones that actually work and people don't even know what it is. Those are the best Funkadelic and Parliament songs, when we get something that works and you don't even know what it is. That's why people don't get tired of seeing us, 'cause it's never the same thing."


It's been interesting touring, he says, since he cleaned up his lifestyle.


"With that lifestyle, you never had time to appreciate how good you was doing," he says. "Now I'm actually seeing cities I've been to 1,000 times that I hadn't seen before because I was so busy being high and trying to get high that I never even looked up to see what it looked like."


He feels good, Clinton says. "I don't want to jinx it, but I definitely feel good."


George Clinton

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17.
Where: Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix.
Admission: $45-$80.
Details: 602-267-1600, celebritytheatre.com.



 
 

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