Force of Funk Lives On
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In April, George Clinton, aka “the Prime Minister of Funk” and “Dr. Funkenstein,” announced that he would be retiring after the current tour.
“This has been coming a long time,” Clinton told Billboard magazine. “Anyone who has been to the shows over the past couple of years has noticed that I’ve been out front less and less.”
Suddenly, Clinton’s Clyde Theatre date took on a special significance.
Clinton, 76, performs on July 12 at the refurbished venue. If the Clyde hadn’t been rescued, it’s likely that Clinton never would have made another trip to Fort Wayne. So there’s a lot of be grateful for.
Clinton grew up in New Jersey where he formed a doo-wop group called The Parliaments. The band eventually made its way to Detroit, where its sound, invigorated by the influences of Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, and James Brown, began to transmogrify.
Clinton said Detroit ended up being a perfect base of operations.
“Detroit’s just a great place,” he told the Detroit Metro Times. “It started with the music that I like, but the whole area (is great). I like to go up to Mackinac and fish. I got a lot of reasons to like Detroit, but most of all, the music has always been the greatest part. I’ve been working with the kids. I know that the music is still there.”
The reason the band calls itself both Parliament and Funkadelic is that Clinton wasn’t allowed legally to use “The Parliaments” for a few years. Eventually, Clinton began to use both names to reference different aspects of the band’s personality.
“… (F)or the most part, Funkadelic is gonna be outside the box,” he told the Bend (Oregon) Bulletin. “… I can experiment all I want. Parliament I do a little straighter because it’s got on the radio a lot, so more people know of that one commercially.”
Clinton said the word “funk” doesn’t just cover a range of sounds. It’s also a life force.
“Funk is anything it has to be to save your life,” he told the Centre Daily Times. “Funk is able to evolve into whatever is new, whether it sounds futuristic or you go retro. Funk can be any of that.
“It’s like the groove of the music; you feel it the same way,” he said. “You do the best you can with it, and let it be like the force in ‘Star Wars.’ It’s going to lead you to where you need to be.”
As many as 28 musicians can appear onstage throughout a Parliament Funkadelic performance, Clinton said.
“It’s like a tag team,” he told the Foster’s Daily Democrat. “It takes that many to keep it moving. A regular band would get tired or bored. Here, when somebody is not feeling it, there is somebody waiting to take their place. Don’t expect nothing but a good time. Don’t try to analyze us. It takes longer to count us than to analyze us.”
That good time used to involve copious drug use, but Clinton said he gave up that lifestyle a long time ago.
“Oh, [expletive], this is much more fun,” he said told the Roanoke Times. “I ain’t trying to pee on nobody’s parade who’s trying to go for that, but [the buzz] don’t happen after the first couple of tries. … I hate to be trying to tell people that, because usually ‘no’ is the aphrodisiac that keeps people doing this. But I can tell you for me, I have so much more fun. In hindsight, I wish I had done it a lot sooner.”
Clinton suggested that the band could continue on without him after he retires next year.
“Truth be told, it’s never really been about me,” he said. “It’s always been about the music and the band. That’s the real P-Funk legacy. They’ll still be funkin’ long after I stop.”