*The late Eddie Hazel, a mind-blowing lead guitarist for Parliament-Funkadelic, would've turned he big 7-0 this month. He took the funk-metal baton from Jimi Hendrix and created his own unique swirl of acid rock and r&b dripped in a heavy supply of funk during the early '70s, best exemplified on his mammoth classic instrumental jam "Maggot Brain."
When Hazel was still a youngster, his family moved from Brooklyn to the suburbs of Plainfield, New Jersey. His mom, Grace Cook, wanted to raise her son in a safer, less drug-riddled environment. At a young age, Hazel's older brother gave him a guitar as a Christmas gift and by age 12, he had begun performing with his new best friend, Billy "Bass" Nelson. Soon, they would add drummer Harvey McGee and begin performing early 60s Motown hits around town.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Plainfield, a doo wop band called the Parliaments, led by singer George Clinton, had a hit record in 1967 called "(I Wanna) Testify."
"I Wanna Testify" - The Parliaments
Clinton needed a backing band for their tour and hired Nelson as his bassist, who in turn recommended Hazel as their guitarist. But Hazel's addition to the band hit a few snags. Hazel was in Newark, New Jersey on tour with George Blackwell and couldn't be reached when Nelson first called him about touring with the Parliaments. Nelson tried to recruit Hazel upon his return, but this time Hazel's mom wasn't having it, because Hazel was only 17. Eventually, Clinton and Nelson teamed up and were able to convince Mrs. Cook to change her mind.
In late 1967, with both Nelson and Hazel on board, the Parliaments went on tour. In Philadelphia Hazel met and befriended Tiki Fulwood, who quickly replaced the Parliaments' drummer. Nelson, Hazel and Fulwood became the backbone of Funkadelic, which was originally the backup band for the Parliaments, only to later become an independent touring group when legal difficulties forced Clinton to temporarily abandon the name "Parliaments"
The Parliaments w/ Funkadelic LIVE Eddie Hazel 1969
The switch to Funkadelic was cemented with the addition of Tawl Ross on rhythm guitar and Bernie Worrell on keyboards. Their first three albums were "Funkadelic" (1970), "Free Your Mind... And Your Ass Will Follow" (1970) and "Maggot Brain" (1971). All three albums prominently featured Hazel's guitar work.
Free Your Mind... And Your Ass Will Follow
The track "Maggot Brain" features a ten-minute guitar solo by Hazel. Clinton, reportedly high on acid during the recording session, told Hazel to imagine he'd been told his mother was dead, but then learned that it wasn't true. In 2008, Rolling Stone cited "Maggot Brain" as number 60 on its list of 100 greatest "guitar songs" of all time.
Nelson and Hazel officially quit Funkadelic in late 1971 over financial disputes with Clinton, though Hazel contributed to the group sporadically over the next several years. The albums "America Eats Its Young" (1972) and "Cosmic Slop" (1973) featured only marginal input from Hazel. Instead, Hazel began working with the Temptations (along with Nelson), appearing on the albums "1990" (1973) and "A Song for You" (1975).
"1990" - The Temptations
"A Song For You" - The Temptations
Funkadelic's sixth studio album "Standing on the Verge of Getting It On" (1974), is considered an essential album for Hazel fans because he co-wrote all of the album's songs. On six of the tracks the songwriting credit was in the name of his mother, Grace Cook, reportedly Hazel's way to avoid contractual difficulties with the publishing rights. Also in 1974, Hazel served as the lead guitarist and arranger for Parliament's album "Up For The Down Stroke."
"Standing On the Verge of Gettin' It On"
Parliament - Up For The Down Stroke
In the next several years, Hazel appeared occasionally on Parliament-Funkadelic albums, although his guitar work was rarely featured. One song that featured Hazel's lead guitar is "Comin' Round the Mountain" on "Hardcore Jollies" (1976).
"Comin' Round the Mountain"
In 1977, Hazel recorded a "solo" album, "Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs," with support from other members of Parliament-Funkadelic, including vocals from the Brides of Funkenstein.
Eddie Hazel - "Frantic Moment" from "Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs"
Eddie Hazel - "Smedley Smorganoff" from "Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs"
Hazel was completely absent from "One Nation Under a Groove" (1978), Funkadelic's most commercially successful album. But he popped up in the P-Funk orbit again with a prominent appearance in "Man's Best Friend" on George Clinton's album "Computer Games" (1982), as well as the track "Pumping It Up" from the P-Funk All Stars album "Urban Dancefloor Guerillas."
Man's Best Friend - George Clinton
Pumping It Up - P-Funk All Stars
On December 23, 1992, Hazel died from internal bleeding and liver failure at age 42. "Maggot Brain" was played at his funeral.
In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked Hazel at no. 83 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists.