Shock G of Digital Underground found it necessary to pick up the pen and pad and respond to a recent damning article written by popular Soul Music Archivist Bob Davis of Soul-Patrol.com called ‘George Clinton and the Demise of Funk” In thjis article Davis takes Clinton to task for squandering his fame, fortune and influence. He also calls him a ‘pretender and a ‘bit player’ who hijacked the music direction being blazed by stellar artists Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis.
See for a lotta people FUNK starts and ends with George & in my mind nothing could be further from the truth and I suppose that I dislike the fact that he continues to receive so much adjuration for creating something that even he says he is not responsible for.One of the reasons that I discuss Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis here on the board is because the music that they were creating was where FUNK was headed circa 1971-1973. The influence that their music of the late 60s & early 70s has had over the past 20 years is nothing sort of phenomenal. It was kind of like music for a new generation and it was totally different from what had come before. This music was heavly influenced by the music of Sly Stone and James Brown and was primed to lead the way into the future.
George Clinton was little more that a “bit player” in all of this.
Funkadelic was just a “black rock” band that was the opening act at shows. They would be performing with the lights still on and people still coming in & trying to find their seats. Its no accident that Jimi & Miles were planning to hook up. These two revolutionary “brothas from another planet” both knew that the time for a change had arrived and that they were going to lead that change.
Unfortunately by the time 1976 had rolled around…Jimi was dead..Miles was “sick”….Sly was in his own world..& James was being hounded by the government!
None of these innovators was recording music at that point. There was a vacuum and that’s what George Clinton stepped into. When he transformed Funkadelic into Parliment. George knew exactly what he was doing. all he really did was to take the music of Miles, Jimi, Sly & JB and “commercialize” it.
He took simple rhymes that had been a part of “Black Vernacular” (See ebonics in the PC dictionary….lol) and put them to music rooted in the tradition of Sly, Miles, JB & Jimi.
In addition, George made up a bunch of cartoon characters (coon show???) and said they were funkateers. (some might even say that George “sold out !!)
This was a very different take on what Miles, Jimi, Sly & JB were trying to promote. George was only interested in making money. And make money he did …..GOBS of it !!!
Davis continues with this missive…
George had the very “army” at his disposal that everyone else from JB to Miles to Sly to Jessie Jackson to Julian Bond to Jimi Hendrix all wanted to be the General of..(the generation of “funkateers”).
He was even in a position to influence the 1980 election & he said nothing (I think he was too busy “cashing” in to even to notice that there was an election going on too busy promoting his pro drug agenda, at a time when there were not only “bigger fish to fry” but during a time when here was a GOVERMENT SPONORED PROGRAM TO COMMIT GENOCIDE AGAINST BLACK AMERICANS BY FLOODING URBAN AMERICA WITH RELATIVLY CHEAP COCAINE AND DERIVITIVES.But enough of the past. today the act known as “George Clinton & TheP-Funk All Stars” bears little resemblance to the mighty force that dominated Black music in the late 1970’s.
I have seen them live within the past year and they were awful. I get reports from all over the place from fans who have been disappointed by the performances of the group at recent shows. Their performance on TV at the Sinbad Summer Jam was an abomination. I was personally embarrassed!
But ol George just keeps on pumping out bogus albums and bogus concerts. In my opinion he is perpetrating a fraud against younger music fans who keep expecting the “real deal” from him and don’t even know they are being ripped off.
In short..George Clinton broke my heart ….:(
We have sat by and watched an entire generation of people who squandered the gains of the Civil Rights Revolution because of their need to be “sedated” by Cocaine during the 1980’s. The “Maggot Overlord” played a role in this during that timeframe because of his public endorsement/support for using the drug.
Surely Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, etc did not die in vain so that the Maggot Overlord could allegedly peddle drugs to children from the stage?
Now here he is, as we approach the end of this century allegedly publicly promoting and even worse drug in crack. Many of us are sitting here in our 40’s and above, with children of our own, we can’t afford to sacrifice yet another generation of young people to the scourge of someone who is supposed to be providing leadership for the future, who instead chooses to be an active participant in the GENOCIDE of our people.
Personally I don’t care if the “Maggot Overlord” (or anyone else) wants to blow his brains with a crack pipe. Just let him do it in the privacy of his own home and away from my children.
OPEN LETTER REGARDING “THE DEMISE OF FUNK”
BY: SHOCK G
What we have in George Clinton is an enabler.
George’s gentle guidance liberated the musicians around him and drew the best out of them. George is the glue that held Parliament Funkadelic together, the mediator/referee who provided the “space” for Bootsy, Bernie, Gary, Michael, Junie, Eddie, Fuzzy, Glen, Fred and Maceo to create from and be their freest.
The best leaders leave the people thinking they did it themselves, and inspire them to their highest potential; precisely George’s role in P-Funk.
Now, as for the later cocaine-abuse period, I believe that functions more as a coping mechanism, aiding the bigger sacrifice; his continuance to tour and create budgets and sessions, and his tireless juggling act of keeping a family of 60-to-a-hundred people working every year.
I’ve been on tour with them this past decade, as a guest vocalist, and their rooming list was 60 names deep, every member with their own room. The tour I was on, back in ’02, had 4 tour buses, and 2 separate production trucks. Those great musicians you speak of, who gave their life blood to the funk through the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, are now adults with families, bills, grandkids, –many many mouths to feed. Meanwhile, their lives aren’t geared to earn a living any other way besides workin’ in P-Funk, which they each gave 20 to 40 years of their lives to help build.
We must realize the great sacrifice being made by George to tour and continue to work well into his senior years when most people his age retire and opt to spend time at home with their immediate families.
If George doesn’t tour, the frontier for P-Funk members becomes sketchy, and the threat of homelessness becomes very real. You think they don’t know the shows aren’t as tight and crisp as they were in their youth? You think they’re not aware that these most recent albums aren’t as creatively cutting edge or as relevant as their heyday material?
Of course they must. But what choice do they have, a cashier job at Walmart? Or playing at the local church? And it’s not only age, changing times, or substance abuse that causes these records to rate by comparison; it’s also the lack of lucrative working budgets, strong label support, well-connected and ambitious management, fresh energetic musicians, new equipment, etc–all the things that existed for them in their era but now belong to Jay-Z, Diddy, Black-Eyed-Peas, Snoop, G-Unit, Dr. Dre, & whoever.
Still, when P-Funk tours, it employs over a hundred people, from the musicians, managers, guitar techs, publicity people, roadies and merchandisers on the road, to the local office and field promotion teams involved, many of whom are veteran P-Funk members & lifetime contributors. If George quits, where do they go?
He probably would’ve loved to have had time away from it, I’m sure he’s contemplated it a few times.
Consider Sly Stone‘s decision to not tour or perform for all those decades, but rather hide away and do his drugs in seclusion, to the disappointment of his fans and band members.
Consider the many ex-members of Barry White‘s Love Unlimited Orchestra, walking around LA for the past 20 years out of work, or barely surviving on session work (I personally know a couple of ’em), some doing jobs that are not even music related, with no connection to the great legacy they helped build.
No disrespect or blame to Barry or Sly (I love them both, their talent and contributions to the world are enormous!) but the decision to stay home and live a simpler life may have been all they could handle mentally, physically, spiritually; who knows? Every man’s tolerance level is different, so perhaps they opted to retire, and take care of their immediate family, rather than continue to carry the weight of an entire organization like George is still doing today, even as I write this, selflessly sacrificing the victorious-grandpa home life for the greater needs of an entire organization. (He’s a Great-Grandfather too, by the way).
As for that 1970’s “movement” –the struggle against racism, the FBI, and Cointelpro– don’t knock George’s huge contributions just because his were different then Malcom’s or Huey’s, or Gil Scott’s, or The Last Poets’.
George’s approach was decidedly less militant, more Zen Taoist in nature, more introspective and personally active. Almost Buddha-like. George functioned as a living example of unity, employing vast networks of artists.
Gil Scott-Heron on the other hand, who I caught live at Kimbles East in Oakland in the 90’s, and who was equally cracked-out (must’ve weighed 110 pounds), had 4 people on the road; his 3-piece act and a manager.
Lyrically, George’s contributions to the human condition are immeasurable, urging us to “free our minds so our asses can follow” and discover the “Kingdom of Heaven within” all of us.
“By Any Means Necessary” is but one approach, an approach which often led to more violence, pain and grief for all involved. One could also ponder, would cheap drugs had even been pumped into the hood if the Panthers & similar organizations hadn’t scared the shit out of the FBI and unknowingly provoked it?
In spite of all this, George was well aware of another rarely-acknowledged truth: Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis Jr, Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier, Berry Gordy, Arther Ashe, Muhammed Ali, and Dr. J all lived in the same America that Malcom -X, Huey Newton, and Gil Scott-Heron did, though they had very different perspectives about social limits and opportunity.
Where Tupac felt “trapped in a white man’s world”, Diddy felt boundless in that very same world. As Tupac believed it would, this “hopeless” world did him in; and as Sean Combs believed, the world was his, and the sky was the limit.
There’s no better example of “Free your mind and your ass will follow” than that.
As a teenager and college student in the early 80’s, my homies and I used to love gettin’ all pumped-up on Malcom-X and Stokely Carmichael speeches, and we’d pledge to one day do something major for the struggle, like rob a rich corporation, or bomb a courthouse.
But the cosmic revolution not only challenged those feelings, it exposed them as dark tension-filled energy. Funkadelic’s mood and message always soothed the soul, loosened tension, and fed the intellect: “The desired effect is what you get when you improve your interplanetary funksmenship.” (even as kids we caught the bigger meaning: Acknowledge things beyond your immediate surroundings to live a richer, happier life).
It was broader than the usual revolutionary rhetoric, less demanding, more fun, and appealed to the basic humanitarian that dwells inside all of us.
“Everybody’s got a little light under the sun!” Wow, it was also less exclusionary, and invited all the races, (“One nation under a groove!”) Even the animals seemed welcome, and sometimes George even inspired us to ponder the meaning of life in general– “Why must I feel like that, why must I chase the cat?” –which is a great accomplishment: to get kids to contemplate life beyond their immediate surroundings.
But most of all, it always seemed fueled by love rather than anger, or rage, or self-defense, or revenge, so it simply felt better in the heart. George offered cool, colorful and humorous solutions: “He just can’t find the beat, (the rhythm of life) so flash light! Help him find the funk!”
While Gil Scott, Marvin Gaye, and Curtis Mayfield opted to spotlight the ills (“What’s goin’ on? Fred is dead!”), other artists adored those very same years, like Stevie: “I wish those days, would, come back again…”
While the FBI/Panther reality dwelled in a racist, segregated, crime-ridden world plagued by war, some of us were busy celebrating our “Chocolate City” and danced our way out of our constrictions as one joyous nation under a groove thanks to George’s beautifully open and optimistic mind.
That alternate world delivered Dr. Dre to his producing dream, Denzel Washington to the top of the box office, Prince to his magic Purple Kingdom, and allowed me to spark a place called Digital Underground and declare Peace and Humptiness to all!
In hindsight, I’m thankful that in addition to the straight-laced messages of say, Earth Wind & Fire, or the soulful messages of James Brown, we also had intellectual daredevils like Hendrix, Miles, and George to walk the outer edge for us, to experiment in the studio with acid and mushrooms, to risk their own health and sanity and bring us back all those amazing sounds, colors and philosophies.
These people went to war for us, physically and mentally, and are recognized and appreciated by many as real-life royalty-
Royalty earned, and not just because of whoever their parents happened to be. And like all geniuses, George has his flaws; his vulnerabilities. But what’s so different about his crack habit than Billie Holiday or Jerry Garcia’s heroin habits? Or Jimi Hendrix’s any-drug-he-could-find-that-day habit? Or Bob Marley’s weed habit?
The only difference I see is that George somehow survived his habit into his 70s, while the rest of their hearts gave out much sooner. (R.I.P.)
Bravo! Last man standing; the mighty, mighty Dr. Funkenstein! Not just standing, but standing on stage, giving, performing, traveling, and leading the greatest and largest funk band in the known Universe, PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC!!
Of course lately they can be a little rusty or uninspired up there airy-now-n-den, but that’s okay, us true fans, we allow it, because we can all imagine and appreciate that life inside of P-Funk probably ain’t no cake-walk either.
Chaos. Mayhem at times. The inside competitions and feuds are probably unbearable to the average musician, only the strong survive in P-Funk. Even Bootsy had to step out a few times, and catch his breath for a year or two. The truth is, most bands couldn’t endure what they’ve lived through (more live shows than the Rolling Stones or Grateful Dead.) Most of us can’t imagine the level of patience it requires to exist in a band of that size and essence. Think 6 basketball teams, including the bench, all traveling together, with their grandkids in the band, still doing a show per night to sold out audiences to this very day.
P-Funk isn’t just a band, it’s a phenomenon.
And George is for sure an extraterrestrial, the magnetic centerpiece to that phenomenon, who’s earned the right to do whatever he pleases in most of our eyes. Especially as long as he chooses to remain in the driver’s seat and take on such a mammoth responsibility, one in which he navigated for 50 years strong so far without complaint.
How many men in this world would stay in there and do that? Plus, have you ever actually been around P-Funk? These dudes are not your average Bar Kays or Kool & the Gang, nowhere’s near that normal or orderly.
We’re talkin’ some of the weirdest & most intense cats in the business, misfits. Most producers wouldn’t even work with some of these cats, but George welcomes ’em all, communicates with all their quirks and personal languages, and pulls a coherent performance out of them each night.
Managing P-Funk probably has the stress-level of managing 3 or 4 Wu-Tang Clans at once. Between touring and the studio, George hasn’t taken a break since the 1960s, so I think we owe the man a little cred here:
Some 90 or so albums-with the common lyrical thread of self empowerment, upliftment, humor, optimism, and mental liberation-running through all 90 of ’em.
Never an arrogant, cruel, or self-centered lyric through all his work, never talked down to his audience, always approachable and charming in person, and never used his platform to chase pussy. Also, he never imposes any rank when speaking with his bandmates, treats everyone with the same respect, young or old, new or 50-year veteran.
George Clinton is a true class act, an artist of immovable integrity. I’ve never been around a person with a more peaceful vibe, who’s mere presence relives tension in whatever company he’s in. He’s also one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, his magical wordplay and phrases still circulate today within the hip-hop, electro and rock communities.
And finally, he will go down in history as one of the great composers and arrangers of our time. He was not the last person to put his touches on their greatest songs, George was often the first person to touch it, the creative spark who set the ball in motion. “Atomic Dog” was one of those: in his first take he laid all his vocals as they are now in the song in one continuous take, improvising all the memorable hooks and key melodies that became the song’s theme.
“Flash Light” is another in which George was the first voice to touch it, even before Bernie’s keyboards. When George sung over it, it was just drums and guitar strumming; no bassline, no space-organ, no moog synth squeaks and chirps yet, and no group vocals. The essence of those two songs is all George, notice the keyboards following his lead next time you hear it.
Another one, not only the lyrics, but the chord changes to “(Not Just) Knee Deep” was George-inspired; he already had the words & melody years before it was recorded, it was something he used to sing to himself. He sung it a cappella to Junie one day, who figured it out further on the keyboard, finding the chords & adding the bassline.
Quiet as it’s kept, most of the classic P-Funk hits, it’s George’s essence that rings through the most, that thing that makes it recognizably P.
Soooo not a pretender. On the contrary, he was the ears, the visionary, and the primary lyricist responsible for 90% of the P-Funk song titles and words.
Okay, and while we’re at it, one more juicy little-known gem about the man: He’s responsible for the rhythm arrangement of “More Bounce to the Ounce” by Zapp(!!) Yes, George Clinton, in a little bit of a fluke, a little studio savvy, and a bit of luck, actually gave Roger that sound, that formula that Roger went on to use on his next 3 follow-up singles; “I Can Make You Dance”, “So Ruff, So Tuff”, and “Dance Floor”, That chunky stutter bass against the thick handclap? Zapp & Roger’s signature sound and main money maker? It was a George Clinton creation. (Doh!)
Very true. That sound is the result of George cutting a 2-foot long piece out of the 2-inch multi tape, flipping it around backwards, looping it to itself, and then slowing it down to the current speed of “More Bounce”. Apparently, Roger’s original groove was faster and a lot busier. They said it was in a vein like his “Heard it through the Grapevine” song: fast and choppy with a busy chord progression, and the bass was all over the place, an elaborate melody.
George, who was producing Roger’s first album for his new Uncle Jam label that year (which is another fascinating story: how the crazy older brother Larry Troutman sneak signed the group to Warner Bros. behind George’s back while he and Bootsy left the studio to get food. Yes, the same crazy brother who shot Roger dead 10 years later.)
Anywayz, earlier that day, while Zapp was still set to be the first new act on George’s label, George got concerned that Roger didn’t have anything they could use as a single yet, and that he needed something simpler then what he had heard so far, and that’s when he performed the tape trick.
The new slower piece in reverse created the rhythm and melody that became the infamous “More Bounce” kick-drum and synth-bass “B-B-Bomp CLAP-Bomp-Bomp” arrangement. With a smile George said “That’s all ya need right there. Just build the song around that”, and the rest became that beast of a record. If you listen closely, you can still hear the backwards bass & drums underneath; that was the first thing they started with, and then began overdubbing more tracks on a second 2-inch machine.
They told me that Roger also had about 10-times the lyric content he wound up using and that George convinced him to eliminate most of it and just keep repeating “mooore boooounce” they way he did. I was told this first hand by Boogie the bass player and Gary Shider, who were both also there that day.
And speaking of George’s Zen-like integrity; get this:
-after he had a verbal agreement from Roger and had been grooming him for months to be the first release on the new Uncle Jam label, and also after producing a good portion of his album so far, (including literally creating “More Bounce” for him), after all that, when George returned and learned that a Warner rep had showed up, went in the back room with Larry and Roger, talked him out of signing with George’s label in 5 minutes they said, and signed him directly to Warner–
They said George looked at them with disappointed eyes that said “Really?” looked down at the ground for a second, shook his head no, shrugged and said “Well, so much for that”, and turned around and walked out the studio.
The remaining P-Funk cats walked out after George, and I think they said Bootsy was the only one who stayed behind to help finish producing it, which is why Bootsy’s name appeared in the credit.
But yeah, George gave that classic song it’s essence as well as named the group “Zapp.” He never sued or spoke about it again, he just let it go, but I heard he was sad and heartbroken by it, as he had a friendship building with Roger prior to that incident.
Okay, ’nuff said.
George is THE dude basically.
He’s the genuine article, and has well-earned all recognition he’s ever received and beyond..
He is a rare and true artist of artists.
Peace, love, & humptiness 4eva,
and thanx for allowing me to introduce you to Dr. Funkenstien.
(of 2Pac, digital underground, Luniz, Saafir, Murs)
“Think, it ain’t illegal yet.”
original article http://rimemagazine.com/article/1331/shock_g_drops_knowle