Berklee College of Music News
By Nick Balkin
George Clinton crashed a Berklee P-Funk Ensemble rehearsal for an MTV special a few years ago. Next month, he returns to the college to teach a four-day residency, perform a concert, and accept an honorary degree.
At the concert, February 16, Berklee President Roger H. Brown will present Clinton with an honorary doctor of music degree in recognition for the funk icon’s enduring musical and cultural contributions. Featuring performances of “I Wanna Testify,” an early career doo-wop hit, “Mothership Connection,” and other P-Funk classics, the concert will pay tribute to Clinton’s musical legacy. February 13–16, Clinton will visit classes, interact with students, and rehearse with the Berklee P-Funk Ensemble. Clinton’s longtime horn section players, Greg Thomas and Bennie Cowan, will perform with him at the concert.
George Clinton Meets Berklee takes place on Thursday, February 16, 8:15 p.m., at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. General admission tickets are $20 and $15. Purchase tickets at berkleebpc.com, call 617 747-2261, or visit the BPC Box Office. The BPC is wheelchair accessible. The concert is produced by faculty bassist Lenny Stallworth and Africana Studies, a focused area of study within the college’s Liberal Arts Department.
About George Clinton George Clinton is one of the foremost innovators of funk music, and was the mastermind behind the bands Parliament and Funkadelic. Clinton was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 with 15 other members of Parliament-Funkadelic.
Clinton started his career with the Parliaments, a barbershop doo-wop ensemble, which scored a major hit with “I Wanna Testify” in 1967. Clinton then began experimenting with harmonies, melody, and rhythm, and taking cues from the psychedelic movement, forever setting himself apart from the Motown era.
By the early 1970s, the group’s tight songs evolved into sprawling jams around funky rhythms. They dropped the “s” from the band name and Parliament was born. Around the same time, Clinton spawned Funkadelic, a rock group which fused psychedelic guitar distortion, bizarre sound effects, and cosmological rants with danceable beats and booming bass lines. Funkadelic recorded a number of influential concept albums, including Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow, Maggot Brain, and America Eats Its Young.
Parliament and Funkadelic captured 40 hit R&B singles, including No. 1 hits “Flashlight,” “One Nation Under a Groove,” “Aqua Boogie,” and “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” Clinton’s collaborators included keyboardist Bernie Worrell, guitarist Eddie Hazel, bassist Bootsy Collins, saxophonist Maceo Parker, trombonist Fred Wesley. On stage, spectacle ruled the day, with an enormous mothership, outrageous costumes, and marathon performances.
In the 1980s, Clinton emerged as a successful solo artist. He released Computer Games with the No. 1 hit single “Atomic Dog,” produced the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ pioneering Freaky Styley, and signed with Prince’s Paisley Park label. He also began to experiment with the urban hip-hop music scene, as a generation of rappers reared on P-Funk began to name-check him.
Clinton has become recognized as the godfather of modern urban music. Beats, loops, and samples of P-Funk have appeared on albums by OutKast, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliot, De La Soul, Fishbone, and many others. As Clinton has said, “funk is the DNA of hip-hop and rap.” In 1996, Clinton released the solo album The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership, which reunited him with Bernie Worrell and Bootsy Collins.
In 1997, Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Guitar Center’s Hollywood Rock Walk, and earned a Lifetime Achievement Award at the NAACP Image Awards. In 2002, Spin voted Parliament-Funkadelic No. 6 of the 50 Greatest Bands of All Time.
Over the past decade, Clinton has continued to play sold-out shows across the globe, while a countless number of his songs have been licensed for film and television. Currently, he is compiling new and old songs for an exclusive online-only release, fighting for artist rights through the P-Funk Initiative (a bill drafted with Congressman John Conyers Jr. to protect against copyright and royalty theft), and blogging about these issues on his website, FunkProbosci.com. Clinton also continues to support the youth through the Mother’s Hip Education Foundation, and through donations to the Barack Obama Green Charter High School in Plainfield, New Jersey.
Here is George Clinton’s recipe for commercial and critical success: A spaceship, diapers, add a willingness to upend music business orthodoxy and reinvent contracts, sampling, and production… read more on berklee.edu