Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard On You?: A Memoir
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In this seminal music memoir, Father of Funk George Clinton talks four decades of hit songs, drug abuse, the evolution of pop, rock, and soul music, his legal pitfalls, and much much more.
George Clinton began his musical career in New Jersey, where his obsession with doo-wop and R&B led to a barbershop quartet—literally, as Clinton and his friends also styled hair in the local shop—the way kids often got their musical start in the ’50s. But how many kids like that ended up playing to tens of thousands of rabid fans alongside a diaper-clad guitarist? How many of them commissioned a spaceship and landed it onstage during concerts? How many put their stamp on four decades of pop music, from the mind-expanding sixties to the hip-hop-dominated nineties and beyond?
One of them. That’s how many.
How George Clinton got from barbershop quartet to funk music megastar is a story for the ages. As a high school student he traveled to New York City, where he absorbed all the trends in pop music, from traditional rhythm and blues to Motown, the Beatles, the Stones, and psychedelic rock, not to mention the formative funk of James Brown and Sly Stone. By the dawn of the seventies, he had emerged as the leader of a wildly creative musical movement composed mainly of two bands—Parliament and Funkadelic. And by the bicentennial, Clinton and his P-Funk empire were dominating the soul charts as well as the pop charts. He was an artistic visionary, visual icon, merry prankster, absurdist philosopher, and savvy businessmen, all rolled into one. He was like no one else in pop music, before or since.
“Candid, hilarious, outrageous, [and] poignant” (Booklist), this memoir provides tremendous insight into America’s music industry as forever changed by Clinton’s massive talent. This is a story of a beloved global icon who dedicated himself to spreading the gospel of funk music.
published through BMI, which was supposed to administer monies fairly and efficiently. But writing credits were reassigned, or payments went to other artists with similar names. The composer George S. Clinton, and the confusion between us, came back into play, though it wasn’t as funny as it had been in the seventies. Too many of my payments ended up sent out to him, and when they were returned, they went to Armen or Nene to straighten things out. At one point, my daughter Barbarella requested my
“Shake the Gate,” which is both primal and futuristic, which uses both didgeridoo (an ancient Australian wind instrument) and electronic effects. It’s another dog song—“Coming up in here without shakin’ the gate / Fucking bit / You gonna get ate”—that’s about the gate around the planet Sirius, and the way that it protects the funk from unannounced visitors. The song is defiant, too: we’ve had to contend with plenty of trespassers and intruders, second-story men, larcenists. We’ve stationed guard
Mothership Connection, we went even further afield and imagined a black man in space. Joyce Bogart, Neil’s wife, had a slightly more limited idea of the concept, which was that a ship had come down from outer space and landed in the ghetto. In fact, that’s what she wanted to call it: Landing in the Ghetto. In their mind there was a black-liberation dimension, alien beings coming down to save all the poor people. I saw it differently. To me it was pimps in outer space, the spaceship as a kind of
do, based on his training. That gave the whole project real color, a chromatic diversity. In keeping with the feel—fast, dirty ideas taking precedence over budgets—I designed the cover photo myself. I set up a doctor’s office and used tinfoil to get that space-alien look. It shows Dr. Funkenstein making another Dr. Funkenstein in the laboratory, and it’s supposed to be reminiscent of clone armies. The Boys from Brazil had come out that year, not the movie with Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier
moving parts that it was sometimes hard to concentrate on the message in the music. When I was reminded that there was a philosophy behind it all, the idea sometimes came as a shock, and never more so than when the Black Muslims developed a special interest in the show. The Mothership, of course, had a rough precedent in Black Muslim theology and mythology. In the biblical book of Ezekiel, there was a prophetic vision that some believed was a story of alien visitors. The Honorable Elijah