Taken from Fort Lauderdale Daily (Feb 27, 2017)
For Funk Master George Clinton, Playing At Okeechobee Fest Is A Chance To Introduce New Audiences To The Genre He Helped Create
by Wendy Rhodes
The legendary George Clinton is bringing the funk to the 2017 Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival with hits like âFlash Light,â âAtomic Dog,â âAqua Boogie,â and âOne Nation Under a Groove.â
Best known for disheveled rainbow dreadlocks, madcap stage antics, and an intergalactic persona, the âGodfather of Funkâ will be among 100-plus artists taking the stage at the second annual Bonnaroo-like campout at Sunshine Grove from March 2-5.
Having worked with the likes of Tupac Shakur, Outkast, Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and Michael Bolton, the 75-year-oldâwho rose to fame as the head of Parliament-Funkadelic in the 1970sâstill maintains his characteristic, otherworldly attitude when it comes to talking about his work.
âFunk is one of those communications that can be transferred through all kinds of mediums and senses that we donât even use yet,â he says.
He would know. Clinton began his music career in 1955 with the doo-wop group The Parliaments, before going on revolutionize R&B in the â70s by melding it with the â60s acid sound of artists like Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa. Through this mixture of genres, Clintonâs trademark style of funk was born.
In 1997, his Parliament-Funkadelic group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Prince, who credited Clinton with being one of his greatest influences. In addition to collaborating with the late singer, Clinton recorded on Princeâs Paisley Park label after expensive legal battles with Bridgeport Music forced him from his 200-acre Michigan farm to Florida in 1996.
âIt was good for me,â Clinton says of his move to Tallahassee, âbecause I was able to be out here in the country and re-invent myself.â
Recently, Clinton has collaborated on Kendrick Lamarâs 2016 Grammy-winning album âTo Pimp a Butterflyâ and Louie Vegaâs 2017 Grammy-nominated âLouie Vega Starring...XXVIII.â
And while six degrees of separation would likely link Clintonâs pervasive influence to every nook of the music world, he does have a favorite, long-time funkster.
âSly Stone,â he says. âBecause we had so much fun musically â and doing other crazy stuff that we had no business doing.â
One crazy incident occurred on Clintonâs birthday in 1996 when world heavyweight champion boxer Evander Holyfield and a giggling 16-year-old Chelsea Clinton surprised him backstage at his concert in Atlanta. âShe wanted to start a cake fight,â he says, laughing at the memory.
Clinton recalls holding a hot crack pipe behind his back as the presidentâs daughter, surrounded by Secret Service, descended on him for pictures. âIâm like, I have a pipe in my hand, I need to shut up and be quiet.â
But with age comes wisdom, and, for Clinton, no regrets. âYou get older and you feel a little ashamed, but she wanted to meet the band, and it was funny,â he says. âBut the crack, I finished with that about six years ago. I donât regret stuff that Iâve done. Itâs just part of growing up.â
WYK (Courtesy Aldo Viola)
Taking the stage prior to Clinton at Okeechobee will be the hard-rocking teenagers from What You Know, or WYK, a Miami-based band grounded by the percussion of Nic Collins (son of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer Phil Collins).
For the rising stars, itâs a chance to play alongside music royalty.
âHeâs something else,â Nic Collins says of Clinton. âHeâs the father of all funk . . . Itâs such an honor to be playing before him, because heâs such a big deal in the music world.â
So far, the fledgling WYK has mostly played indoor arenas and music festivals, including the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Collinsâ native Switzerland.
âWeâre kind of nervous,â Collins says of playing at Okeechobee, which draws an estimated 30,000 people. âI hope that once we get up there itâll be fine.â
Hoping to achieve success based what they know, not who they know, Collins is quick to emphasize the stylistic contributions of each band member, citing co-founder and bassist Yannick Weingartenâs classic rock influence on what he calls the bandâs Red Hot Chili Peppers-inspired mixture of hard rock, funk, blues and R&B.
âI donât want to be remembered as just being Phil Collinsâ son,â he says. âI kind of want to be remembered as being my own musician.â
Beyond WYK, Clinton continues to proselytize a new generation of musicians to his eclectic brand of Afrofuturism and emotive grooves.
âIâm having fun playing with these younger musicians,â Clinton says. âI look for when kids start doing new music and try to get in touch and work alongside of them.â