The origin of funk music is often credited to Pee Wee Ellis, James Brown, and a host of other musicians who brought the stylistic groove to life in the ‘60s. Today is George Clinton’s birthday, and as one of Funk’s pioneers, he and his band Parliament-Funkadelic helped place the genre on the world stage.
Clinton was born July 22, 1941 in Kannapolis, N.C., and was raised in Plainfield, N.J. It was in New Jersey where Clinton discovered his passion for music and formed a doo-wop vocal band, The Parliaments, in 1955 when he was still a teenager. The band struggled to score a hit, but Clinton made some inroads in Detroit as a music producer and Motown songwriter while continuing to record with his group, which scored its first big hit “Testify” in 1967.
After some issues with his record label, Clinton and the band refused to record new music and instead secretly formed the band Funkadelic with the same members. He eventually retained the rights to both band names and as the mid-70’s rolled around, the groups recorded material separately and together before officially becoming a collective.
With Clinton as the mastermind, notable members Bootsy Collins, Eddie Hazel, Bernie Worrell, Junie Morrison, Garry Shider, and more flourished in the funk-rock mash-up world they commanded. They also contributed to several splinter groups such as The Brides of Funkenstein, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, and other offshoots.
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Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic saw a renewed interest in their music and signature sound with producer Dr. Dre and other hip-hop acts sampling their old hits and inventing the “G-Funk” style that dominated the ‘90s spawning a host of imitators. That, along with signing to Prince’s Paisley Park Records, made Parliament Funkadelic’s relevant to a new generation of fans. Although Clinton has announced his retirement, Parliament-Funkadelic will continue with his children and grandchildren.
In 1997, Parliament-Funkadelic were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the late Prince doing the honors. In 2019, Clinton and the band were awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.
George Clinton turns 78 today.
PHOTO: Steve Parke for Paisley Park
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