Happy 76th Birthday American Music Living Legend / Godfather of Funk: George Clinton [includes upcoming CA concert dates]

Posted by Billyjam, July 22, 2017 11:20am | Post a Comment

The term "living legend" literally applies to pioneering American music artist George Clinton who today celebrates his 76th birthday. The funk innovator, captain of the mothership, nucleus of Parliament,
Funkadelic, P-Funk All Stars and other spin off bands, George Clinton is an important, historic key figure in shaping not just funk music but also a lot of hip-hop too.  If you have never seen him in concert do yourself a favor and make it a priority and do it this year. You can do it since the hard working musician who, even in his mid 70's, still tours like crazy. He is on a break right now but resumes in a week with a list of upcoming California dates that offer many opportunities to catch this living legend live in concert.

His upcoming California dates include playing Berkeley's Cornerstone in a couple of weeks on August 3rd and the following night in the North Bay at the Mystic Theater in Petaluma. Then he's down to SoCal for dates including August 5th (Saturday at 4pm) by the Queen Mary in Long Beach as part of the all day Summertime in the LBC 2017 festival on an amazing line-up that also includes Wu-Tang Clan, 50 Cent, KRS-One, Slick Rick, DJ Quik, Souls of Mischief, Tha Dogg Pound, and The Dove Shack to name but a few from the impressive day's list of performers. The next day Clinton and band will play the Observatory in Santa Ana at 8pm, August 6th, followed by a gig at the GRAMMY Museum in LA on August 9th. Then he's back up in the Bay Area on August 11th at the San Jose Jazz Society. Looking ahead a few months are the upcoming October Bay dates, two consecutive nights, at The Independent in San Francisco on Oct 15th and16th.

I've seen Clinton play several times over the years and also had opportunity to interview him over the years dating back to May 1985 when I first interviewed him for KALX. Clinton, who was 44 years of age at the time, was enjoying a rich solo career at that time. Three years before in '82 he'd unleashed his solo debut album Computer Games that featured the crossover smoldering funk hit single "Atomic Dog." The following year he followed up with solo album number two You Shouldn't-Nuf Bit Fish.  At the time of the interview he'd already finished up working on his third solo album, Some Of My Best Jokes Are Friends and was onto his next project: producing The Red Hot Chili Peppers. In fact he was in the studio in Detroit with the Chili Peppers working on their album Freaky Styley when he took time out to conduct this phone interview.

To begin I asked George Clinton what his definition of funk was?  "There's so many interpretations of that, it's hard to be creative. I just got a new one recently. Funk is a joint rolled in tampon papers," he chuckled. Did Clinton find the Chili Peppers funky? "Extremely funky I mean them punks are going to make me famous," he laughed. Had he heard Fishbone yet, I asked. "I've heard a lot about them the Chili Peppers talk about them. They seem to be one of their favorite bands," said Clinton, who when asked if he listened to much punk, replied, "Well I'm getting to it. The Red Hot Chili Peppers gave me a lesson in the concepts. I'm getting into what they call the real hard-core punk like knuckleheads. You know the two minutes of banging against the wall!"

George Clinton "Atomic Dog"

What other music was George Clinton listening to back at that time period in the first half of 1985? "Lately here for the last six months I haven't listened to much because I've been mainly in the studio. But when I was listening to the music I checked out Boy George and I was into Duran Duran. I'm talking of the English groups now. I really liked Kajagoogoo although they didn't stay together too long. They were my favorite of the new English bands." When quizzed on whether Clinton prefer producing music or making music he answered, "Well I just like to be involved any changes from day to day. If I need some stage then I just run down to the local club and jam. But I like to do it all and I like to play the politics of it all. When producing needs to be concentrated on I like to do it and when it's time for us to hit the road, to bring the whole concept together I love to do that. So I'm into it all. I'm a ham."
On the symbolism of Pedro Bell's trademark album cover artwork for Funkadelic through Clinton's solo albums he said that, "It's the unity of it all. We try to make all our albums tie in with one another so that there's a storyline. We want it interesting as a concept so that when people get an album it's more than just the record. It's the music, the stories, and the information on the cover. This whole concept approach comes from the 60s and the acid I got it from The Beatles and The Who." So did LSD have a lot to do with Clinton's transition from the early on days, when they were all in matching suits, to when they morphed into psychedelic funk of Funkadelic? "It was a part of the environment that changed it. Actually it was the sixties itself. I mean we came to Motown in '63. When we got there we had been working so hard to become a part of that, you know, the uniforms and the suits in the whole routine thing. We had worked so hard for so many years to become that and then we were told that they didn't want groups that sounded like groups that they already had. So The Temptations were over six feet so that was an image we couldn't overcome. And then The Pips where steppers and no one could out routine them as far as I was concerned. So we went the extreme opposite.

We went all the way back to looseness and that's where we went into Funkadelic," recalled Clinton who insists that a sense of humor is also a key ingredient of the funk. "That's a part of the concept of funky music. But then funky is attitude. I mean funky is whatever it needs to be. It's whatever attitude is needed to survive. It's eh funky! Now if you've done the best you can do in any situation, musically or anything else, it's just let's go! It's like in Star Wars where he says 'Let's go and may the force be with you." Funk is that attitude when you finally realize that intellect and everything else you've tried doesn't work. Then funk it! You've done the best you can but you have to have done the best you can first!"

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