Taken from Forbes (Mar 10, 2019)
Who I Am: George Clinton On Jimi Hendrix, Funkadelic, The Mothership And More
by Steve Baltin
Photo of George CLINTON (Photo by Richard E. Aaron /Redferns / Getty)
For a true music geek it's hard to think of a greater honor or pleasure than sitting down across from George Clinton. In his iconic Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame career, Clinton, who deservedly won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year, has embodied cool, creativity and innovation with Parliament, Funkadelic, P-Funk and on his own.
In the latest installment of Who I Am, he takes readers, in his words, through the defining moments of his career. This is George Clinton on the mothership, on how Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone pushed him musically, on working with Kendrick Lamar and Ice Cube, on constantly reinventing himself. Want to know how George Clinton got to be a music icon? Let him tell you. This is George Clinton Who I Am.
"I Wanna Testify" (Age 25)
We didn't get a hit record at Motown. We got a hit record with "I Wanna Testify." Soon as we got that music started changing from being predominantly Motown and it started becoming rock and roll. So as we got a hit record with "I Wanna Testify" it changes, so we had to change again. While "Testify" was hitting we saw all the groups that we was playing with were all rock and roll bands, like Vanilla Fudge. Their instruments were the ones we used to realize these were the kinds of amps we had to have to play like this. We borrowed their amps and I made a decision to go and do what we call funk. That was my decision coming from choreographed, straight Motown, which had to be strictly arranged and precise to turning it loose and being the black version of what a lot of the rock bands were doing, especially the west coast Grateful Dead and bands like that. And we went and did what we call funk, good old funky music. We got our niche, people loved it that heard it.
Jimi Hendrix/Sly Stone (Age 25)
We were into branding early. I would watch Phil Spector and the Motown Revue and Ike & Tina Turner. And just getting into how funky [James] Jamerson was on the bass at Motown and then all of a sudden here comes this rock and roll stuff, psychedelic and then Jimi Hendrix took straight blues, Muddy Waters, cranked it, then it was psychedelic, a brand new music. I could trace it back to Woody Guthrie. From Curtis Mayfield, Lightning Hopkins, all the different places, you could hear, but it was loud now. We did the same thing with Motown. We knew we was doing loud Motown and that became Funkadelic, extreme bass. Jimi [Hendrix] did Are You Experienced? That changed my life forever when you heard that s**t. You recognized the blues, but what was he doing with all this psychedelic sounds? He had harnessed that s**t and it was over after that. Everything after that became normal. Axis Bold As Love became a little bit more normal. The next one was Electric Ladyland, then Band Of Gypsys. There were three albums. Then just when we got started Sly and them came out with the similar thing, but theirs was strictly physically popping. They had really pop songs and a lot of bass. They were like a big club band, not a rock and roll, loosely, guitar solos all over the place. But it was extreme church and pop. You realized how funky he could really be when he wanted and then later on it was all funk. The respect for their version of doing it and our version of going pretty much to the same place, but from different [angles]. Bernie [Worrell] was classically trained. Sly was too, he used a lot of it in his music. We used a lot of it in our music, the classical training that Bernie had.
"Music 4 My Mother" (Age 27)
That was the beginning of what we call Funkadelic. That was the first time we used that name and that was reinventing ourselves with the liberty to play anything we want and not just a certain type of music and that's your bag. But we did such strange music on Free Your Mind...And Your Ass Will Follow that you couldn't put us in the bag no more. There was no bag to put us in. Miles [Davis] came and hired the drummer from us "Tiki" [Ramon Fulwood]. What we had was like fusion, jazz, rock and roll, but still with Motown vocals, which was Funkadelic. That was the beginning of the new painting from '69 - '75, until we did Chocolate City.
Mothership Connection (Age 33)
This was another defining moment, coming out of the psychedelic era, back into what was going to be pop and glamorous, but not suits. Made with spaceships and leather, feathers and things. Broadway, theatrical, that was the idea when we came out of the Free Your Mind...And Your Ass Will Follow, "Maggot Brain," and all of that back into when we got horns, with Bootsy [Collins], brought Maceo [Parker] and Fred [Weasley]. So now we was dealing with James Brown, Average White Band, all those bands that had those slick horns. We could participate with them cause now we had the best horns, Maceo and Fred from James Brown's band, along with Parliament-Funkadelic and Bootsy, which was a brand new thing we called P-Funk, mixing James Brown with Motown with Funkadelic and all the gospel we could come up with.
"Atomic Dog" (Age 40)
That's a bigger change from the other tune than "Maggot Brain" was from "I Wanna Testify." "Atomic Dog" was like what hip hop was getting ready to be. "Atomic Dog" was straight dance, it was one big sample. Everybody was taking a piece of it as soon as we put the record out. "Atomic Dog" merges right into hip hop. I actually did "Atomic Dog" with Coolio, we did a rap record with "Atomic Dog."
Painting/George Clinton X VIDA Line (Age 57)
I always sign autographs like a little dog signing and then I drew. You tweaking and nothing to do, before you know it you done drawn everything. [The clothes] is coming off really nice, especially on that good material, that VIDA. Did one or two gallery shows, did one up in San Francisco. [Looks at painting] I was looking at the new brushes (laughs). I've got a lot. I sold on in Japan for $20,000. I said, "S**t. Let me hurry up and stock up on this." I found out it ain't about nothing but the feeling cause I don't know what the f**k I'm doing. But and seeing it's somehow interesting just going by the feeling. All of it has got something to do with the feeling cause I ain't got no formal training in music either. But I can feel it and intellectualize the lyrics. But to be able to do all the different melodies and understand the melodies and be able to feel the melodies, especially from era to era, cause kids go out of their way not to sound like the last of the old motherf**kers (laughs).
Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard On You? A Memoir (Age 73)
That was part of my plan to reinvent myself. Three years ago I did the book called that and the song called that with Ice Cube and Kendrick Lamar. All that was part of this plan to reinvent myself cause I have the grand kids in the band and they give me this brand new energy on this new record, Medicaid Fraud Dogg. So it's like a brand new thing. Every show is sold out. The book is very popular. So the song took over where the book left off for a minute. All of this has worked for the reinventing ourselves. There's been so much massive social media. My thing is you never get it unless you reinvent yourself. Right away we got this lifetime achievement award, that's a step in the right direction. We still got to be one nation under groove and keep on stomping because there's a lot to be recaptured for the copyrights and ownerships, the masters, stuff like that. And trying to change the laws. If you don't have the money you have to be on your game.
Getting A Pacemaker (Age 76)
I'd never been sick, so it snuck up on me in a way. I thought it was something else for a long time. I knew I was sick and something was wrong, but I thought it was vertigo cause I dealt with that and that was a humbling experience. Then this happened. I was already planning on retiring anyway. But that got me really into getting it together. But actually once I got it the energy was twice as much as I had for the last 10 years.
Medicaid Fraud Dogg (Age 77)
That's the album that's out now 38 years after the last Parliament album. The concept is meds and insurance. The government, Obamacare and all of the insurance bulls**t, there's the big pill for all of that. This is where we at today, one nation under sedation. They got drugs for everything . They make you sick and then they charge you another fee to get you well again, make you sick from the pills they gave you before. They got us going in legal addiction now. And Medicaid Fraud Dogg, he's tracking it down through all of the insurance and the lobbying and the government, the kickbacks and the mood control. The Dogg is on it. Overton Loyd and myself [did the artwork]. We've been working together on the mothership, Bootsy's album. Just like Pedro Bell do the Funkadelic, he do Parliament. You look at the Funkadelic albums you see there's always been comic books involved in it.