In the words of Hazrat Inayat Khan from the Mysticism of Sound, “A person does not hear sound only through the ears; he hears sound through every pore of his body.
It permeates the entire being, and according to its particular influence either slows or quickens the rhythm of the blood circulation; it either wakens or soothes the nervous system. It arouses a person to greater passions or it calms him by bringing him peace. According to the sound and its influence a certain effect is produced. Sound becomes visible in the form of radiance. This shows that the same energy which goes into the form of sound before being visible is absorbed by the physical body. In that way the physical body recuperates and becomes charged with new magnetism.”
There isn’t a day that has gone by in my life at one time or another that the mysticism that lies in the melodies of music haven’t enraptured my soul. Growing up my family influenced me with all sorts of genres from blues to classical and everything in between. My palette for music never was satisfied with just one kind of music or artist. Unlike most kids my age I was influenced that was before my time but that has always seemed to be where my roots lie and I am perfectly content with that.
I was about 10 or so when I first heard the lyrics of We Want the Funk. I can still picture that moment when all I wanted to do was groove and dance you can say the Dr. of Funk gave my first dose of funkadelic. As time went on I got to evolve with George Clinton from his look to his sound but no matter whether it was an album or a show you were always in form just the right dose of medicine from him.
A few months ago I had the opportunity to interview the Dr. himself while he was touring in Memphis and after some time I figured this would be the best time to share a glimpse into unique Mojo of George Clinton.
When you hear or think of the name George Clinton there is a great deal of accolades that come along with it. But behind the fame and all that comes with being the pioneer that you are, who really is the man behind it all? Who really is George Clinton?
George Clinton is someone who as a kid wanted to be a singer. Wanted to be Frankie Lymon, wanted to be Smokie Robinson, wanted to be Jimmy Hendrix, Berri Gordy everybody that came along that was doing something he liked he wanted to be that and more. He wanted to be Eminem, Chuck D, he wanted to be Rakim, Kendrick Lamar anytime he hears somebody new George Clinton wanted to be that too so George Clinton is still being George Clinton.
Was music always something you felt in your blood that was a calling for you?
From the first days of my being in New Jersey around ‘50 ’51 ’52 hearing all of the rock and roll that was just starting up by ’53 ’54 music was that, my life’s dream, hearin’ Frankie Lymon like I said before, The Spaniels and all the other groups at the Apollo that was always something I knew I was going to do no matter what.
Every artist at one point or another has that moment of revelation that you know this it. When would you say that moment came that you knew that music was going to be this for you?
That moment came that I knew what I wanted to do was when we first got our first Parliament sweaters and we put them on about 14 years old we was gonna be ‘The Parliaments’ I knew from then that was it, I was hooked.
You started out with Parliament as doo-wop act and took on writing at Motown when you began your career. In the music industry especially during those times it is easy for an artist to be molded into the typical “musician” of the time. What made you stop and rethink what you really wanted George Clinton and PFunk to become?
I stopped and reflected on what I wanted PFunk to become every time I recognized that it was changing. That I was probably late, or that something new was on the horizon. And I didn’t want to be what we called in those days ‘corny’, you didn’t want to not be on the in-crowd. So when I heard Motown comin’ up I knew that’s where I was supposed to be. And when Motown was movin’ on out to California to become in the movie business and left Detroit, I knew that my mission was to continue in Detroit with whatever PFunk was going to be ’cause we was late getting to Motown. We had to change, we heard the Beatles coming from England, The Who, The Cream, The Rolling Stones. We knew that was the new shit. We had to flip our version so we did the funky version of rock and roll or blues; we did the mid-tempo. I always pay attention to what’s getting ready to happen by paying attention to the kids up under us that’s getting ready to move us out of the way. Paying attention to them and I was always on top of it.
No one will argue that you Mr. Clinton are the Dr. of Funk and pioneered and took risks during a time that few artist were willing to step outside the box. What would you say were the pivotal things that helped you to achieve your eclectic funkadelic signature sound?
What helped me actually achieve that was what I was always paying attention to, like I said, the kids coming behind us which in the PFunk case would have been Bootsy coming along behind us. While we were doing Funkadelic and Parliament, Bootsy was coming from James Brown and Sly Stone was already around with the horns. Hooking up with Bootsy and him bringing Maceo and Fred Wesley around really helped us turn that corner into what we called PFunk. Cause then you had Motown, James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic, Sly Stone and all of the other information I that had from writing at the Brill building with all kinds of musicians. I had the all the information I needed to do what I called PFunk which meant ‘pure funk’, which means everybody that’s ever been funky that I could think of, I would throw into the stew. From Lewis Jordan to James Brown to hip-hop to anything that would come along new to anything in the past I would ‘bite it’, I would eat it up.
What would you say has been your secret for your continued longevity in this industry and still being able to put on a hell of a show for all ages to get to enjoy your music and presence?
Um… I could say longevity actually I could say paying attention to the kids that’s coming behind us gives me energy every time I hear new stuff I didn’t do. That gives me the energy to start all over again. That, believe it or not, is my real energy and the love of the music that I make period. That gives me the energy to keep doing it. But to stay on top of it, paying attention to the kids and to hear something that I wish I had done… I start all over again and catch up on my homework!
It’s no secret that in the music industry that artist and some point or another reap the rewards as well as the downfalls that come along with this business. What do you think has made you survive all the good and the bad things that come along with this lifestyle?
The love of the music overcomes any downside or any upside I mean, the love of the music that we know even when I’m doing good this ain’t the end, there’s going to be somebody coming along that’s going to do it different which might mean that it’s better for that moment. But the love of the music pretty much fuels all of that. Ain’t no getting tired when you love what you’re doing. Your work is your play.
You have a new memoir that has just come out can you tell our readers a little bit about what they can expect?
In my memoirs you can expect everything you wouldn’t think you could expect. I mean, I told on me, on all the people that I had fun with, not all of them, but a lot of the things that people would want to hear about a crazy group like Funkadelic. All those crazy stories that you would imagine, there’s plenty of them. I did my bitching about the record companies and what they’re doing’, I mean that’s my main reason for writing the book. To be able to tell that story ‘cause it’s not just one or two songs that got stolen. It’s a whole history, like slavery; just being taken away like land from people. The copyrights and the ownerships of land is really similar. So all of that is in the book. In the book is lots of fun, lots of craziness, lots of drugs, lots of sex, lots of rock ‘n’ roll but still only of tenth of the stuff.
Life on the road comes with a lot of sacrifices what motivates you and drives you to still continue to tour and do what you do day in and day out?
What drives me to continue is the same as I said before, the love of what I’m doin’. That’s the answer for most of the questions of why I do what I do and how long can I do what I do. The love of what I do makes all that other stuff irrelevant.
When you’re not on the road what do you do to unwind?
When I’m not on the road what I do to unwind is go fishin’ and go to the studio and make some more funk.
For those newbies who haven’t seen your stage performance what can they expect during this tour?
They can expect the ‘unexpectable’. They can expect everything they wouldn’t expect. Cause I never know what I’m gonna do. So everybody has as much information as I do. Other than they know the songs that we made, some form or another most of them with be in there, but you never know how, when, what style or who’s going to sing them!
What would you say has been one of the biggest life lessons and advice you can give to upcoming artists?
The best advice I could give to upcoming artists is, “Do the best you can then Funk it.”
Do you ever think there will come a time when you decide to give up tour and begin another chapter outside of the road and music?
I need probably another ten percent of brain power to answer a question like that. I have no reason to think that time would ever come. But the ten percent of that I got now, I can’t perceive anything like that happening.
Until next time keep staying as One Nation Under A Groove y’all.
Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo is a HottyToddy.com contributor, veteran SEC sports journalist and Brown University graduate. She loves good cigars, good games and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.