Jerry and the Dead May Be Gone But George and Parliament Funkadelic Are Still Here

Posted by Billyjam, July 15, 2015 08:30am | Post a Comment

Fans of the Grateful Dead feeling bummed about not getting to attend the final Dead series of concerts recently, might consider the alternative of going to check out George Clinton's Parliament Funkadelic who are currently on a summer tour that includes some free shows in New York City this week. As anyone like myself who has ever witnessed concerts by both Jerry Garcia's beloved band and by the Godfather of Funk's various funk incarnations (Parliament / Funkadelic / P-Funk All Stars) will attest, both share an approach to concerts that tend towards long extended jams that are related to "the One." So if you were among those Deadheads disappointed to not get to attend either the two anniversary Dead shows last month in Santa Clara, CA or this month's sold-out (and expensive) show series at Chicago's Soldier Field, where the four remaining members of the Grateful Dead - Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann - performed together reportedly for the last time, then I say honor Jerry and the Dead by going to see George and Parliament Funkadelic

With divergent influences including Jimi HendrixLed Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Sun Ra, James Brown, and Sly Stone, George Clinton's Parliament Funkadelic, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, transcend the traditional Soul, RnB, or rock genres that they are sometimes labelled as, just as the Dead transcended the psychedelic rock and many other limiting labels that they could never be confined to. Both groups embrace various musical genres and styles but share that love of going off into long hypnotic, trance-like jams in concert. I got to see both acts play in the '80s around the same time and was struck by their many similarities. The musical approach they share is "The One." That term (originated by James Brown, and refined and further articulated by Bootsy Collins) is when the main musical focus in funk is placed on the first beat of each four beat count with the space in between being filled with "what you feel like" as explained by James Brown/Parliament Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins (see video below).

Bootsy on "the One"

The late great Jerry Garcia tapped into, and built upon that concept of "the One," telling Grateful Dead biographer/archivist David Gans in his book Conversations With the Dead, “Rhythmically, our policy is that the one is where you think it is." Garcia called it a zen-like concept that "makes it possible to get into a phrase where I can change into little phrase spurts, spitting out little groups of notes that are attached fives-five in the space of four, or five in the space of two, is more common for me-and then turn that into a new pulse, where those fives become like a sixteenth note pulse. Then I’m inside of a whole irregularly rotating tempo in relation to what the rest of the band is playing, say, the original common time." Not identical but interrelated, the two approaches to performing each result in those long head-nodding jams that both the Dead and P-Funk became known and loved for in concert.

Since Jerry is dead and the Dead have officially retired while George is alive and well and Parliament-Funkadelic are currently touring (albeit in the latest incarnation that does not include original key members like Bootsy but a whole new lineup) I suggest Grateful Dead fans looking for the next best thing go see Clinton's group. George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic perform for free this evening (July 15) at 7pm in Queensbridge Park, NYC as part of the Summerstage series. Tomorrow (July 16) they play a free midday show at BAM in Brooklyn, NYC, and on Friday (July 17) they play Baltimore as part of the funk legends ongoing US/European summer tour that ends on August 17th in SoCal at Chumash Casino Resort in Ventura County. See full George Clinton tour details here.

Parliament-Funkadelic - The Mothership Connection (1976)

Relevant Tags

Funk (26), Bootsy Collins (7), P-funk All Stars (1), Jerry Garcia (5), George Clinton (15), Grateful Dead (20), Funkadelic (8)