George Clinton turns 80, the man who created the “P-Funk Nation” and established himself as its absolute leader

George Clinton turns 80, the man who created the “P-Funk Nation” and established himself as its absolute leader

This Thursday July 22 turns 80 George Clinton, the musician who at the head of his band Parliament / Funkadelic rescued black music from the “facelift” to which it had been subjected for the commercial consumption of the white public, from a particular style that combined funk, psychedelia and, fundamentally, a lot of humor.

In this context, Clinton created a colorful universe of her own where all those clichés of black culture that the establishment resorted to to show it to the general public were exacerbated, which she concentrated on an imaginary “P-Funk Nation” of which he declared himself leader absolute.

For this, in addition to staging with the musicians coming out of spaceships, colored clothing, afro hairstyles literally up to a meter in height and anarchic movements, the artist took old slogans from official American culture and subverted them to his new order.

Musicians stepping out of spaceships, outrageous costumes and impossible hairdos, a Clinton trademark. Photo AFP PHOTO / ANP / ADE JOHNSON

A mix of styles in a hypnotic alchemy

Thus he launched ingenious slogans such as “Uncle Jam Wants You”, alluding to “Uncle Sam” and his call for young people to fight in Vietnam; “One Nation Under A Groove”; “Undisco Kidd”; or “In Funk We Trust”, new reading of the phrase inscribed on the US currency bills; and others that operated as an invitation to liberation such as “Free Your Mind … and Your Ass Will Follow”.

All this to the rhythm of a musical style that combined elements of the old vocal groups of doo-wop, wishful thinking and psychedelic, assembled in songs that under a hypnotic rhythmic pattern and a constant melodic motif, could extend for long minutes.

A native of North Carolina, Clinton got his start in music as a member of the vocal group The Parliaments, while he made a living as a stylistPerhaps an activity that was going to provide him with ideas related to aesthetics for future artistic projects.

The rejection that was push

The rejection of his group by the Motown label, the factory that conditioned black music for mass consumption in a process that concealed its most combative aspects, prompted the musician to take his sound interests to the extreme.

In 2009, George Clinton commanded a selection of musicians who knew how to warm up the audience with an unforgettable cocktail of black sounds.  Photo Andrés D'Elía

In 2009, George Clinton commanded a selection of musicians who knew how to warm up the audience with an unforgettable cocktail of black sounds. Photo Andrés D’Elía

In the midst of the hippism fury, and inspired by artists such as Sly & The Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix, he created Funkadelic, a musical collective destined to develop his own genre which he defined as “funk and acid”.

But also, after The Parliament was dissolved, he took up the idea of ​​rescuing the doo wop from his new site, so he finally renamed his project Parliament/Funkadelic, in a dynamic where it assumed one or another denomination according to the musical approach.

Throughout the 1970s, and surrounded by the best musicians of the genre, such as bassist Bootsy Collins, Parliament / Funkadelic became an overwhelming rhythmic machinery that, live, displayed a visual appeal characterized by excess and humor.

In this way, Clinton’s artistic activity served not only as a resistance to Motown’s cover-ups of the more radical aspects of black culture, but also to the explosion of disco music.

At the beginning of the ’80s, the musician dissolved the group, with which years later he would return intermittently, to start a solo career, but mainly to extend his mark through his work as a producer.

Clinton's influence ranges from Prince to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  AP Photo / Keystone-Laurent Gillieron

Clinton’s influence ranges from Prince to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. AP Photo / Keystone-Laurent Gillieron

Thus, was that musically oriented Red Hot Chili Peppers in its beginnings and inspired Afrika Bambataa, a central figure in the birth of hip-hop, among others.

Over the years, Clinton spaced her public appearances; however, each time he did it, he again demonstrated that his style and artistic conception is unique, and that his humor remains intact.

It is enough to review the appearance of the group in the 2006 edition of the traditional Glastonbury festival, when he turned the place into a gigantic dance floor, while one of the musicians scoffed at his advanced age by appearing on stage barely dressed in a geriatric diaper. More George Clinton and more Parliament / Funkadelic than that, you don’t get.

Source: Télam / Hernani Natale

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