If you’re talking funk, you must mention George Clinton. We continue with funk music for our continuing series of Black Music Month. Clinton, the musician, producer, and ‘master conceptualist,’ is originally from North Carlina. However, it was his teenage years at a barbershop in Plainfield, New Jersey, where he built the foundation of funk music.
Any research on funk music will immediately yield three names: Parliament, Funkadelic, and James Brown. And Clinton founded Parliament and Funkadelic. For a time in the 60s, Clinton was a songwriter for Motown. He had a hit with “(I Wanna) Testify” in 1967 with his band “The Parliaments,” with George writing and singing lead with a classic Motown soul sound.
The Parliament and Funkadelic Influence of the 70s
Despite the success of that song, there is little resemblance to the eccentric sounds and theatrics that would come in the 1970s.
Parliament and Funkadelic, led by Clinton, were two of the most influential and popular bands on the Black music charts of the 1970s. Although not mainstream, the bands and their fans, as with heavy metal or punk rock, were considered rebels.
“Style is whatever you want to do, if you can do it with confidence,” said Clinton in an interview many years ago.
By the end of the 1970s, Parliament and Funkadelic combined scored 39 singles on the R&B charts. The biggest were the number one hits “Flash Light,” “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” (both Parliament), and “One Nation Under a Groove” (Funkadelic). Seven of the albums went either gold or platinum.
George Clinton: The Later Years
By the 1980s, legal troubles got in the way of Clinton’s bands, and he became a solo act and producer for others. His success and influence continued with his biggest hit, “Atomic Punk,” in 1982. In 1985 he produced the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ second album, Freaky Styley.
Now 82 years old, he continues to record and conceptualize and has a widely eclectic George Clinton website featuring many other artists of all ages.
In 2008, Clinton released “George Clinton and His Gangsters of Love,” and in recent years has produced and recorded with artists ranging from El DeBarge to Sly Stone, Carlos Santana, gospel singer Kim Burrell and many more. Parliament released its most recent album, Medicaid Fraud Dogg, in 2018. He has recently dealt with health issues but competed on The Masked Singer and other music shows and films.
He has been married to his manager, Carlon Thompson-Clinton, for more than 10 years