From personal observation its vital to note that I was not in any minority of Generation X’rs who became enthralled with George Clinton,turning 72 years old today, during the early/mid 1990’s. As they say its not always as important where you started from as where your going. And I happen to be one of those people who found that George Clinton’s music not only led me to anything his touched musically but also to the broad spectrum of funk-from James Brown (who I actually explored after Clinton) and the artist than not known as Prince. This was an era when Clinton was appearing at many alternative rock oriented festivals in Lion King Sheets-a hair full of shoe laces. And seemed to be constantly in court of over musical and drug related disputes. Today this is all behind him. As one can see from the photograph above,Clinton can now “dress cool but still have his groove” as he might say. And is thankfully clean and sober. His legal troubles and drug issues were a selling point to many people. For me they were something I hoped he’d overcome because I saw a very different side of his vision. And that is the subject of this tribute.
Born in a strong astrological cusp between Cancer and Leo signs, this was somebody who would seemed destined to walk the thin line between dependability and chaotic randomness. In under a decades time frame he went from the owner of his own barber shop,his early musical success with the Parliaments to his formation of Funkadelic-with cemented his reputation as an underground music icon who,in his time, was felt creatively more through influence than anything coming directly from him. Even during the 70’s he maintained that duel identity-parlaying the talents of his enormous band of musicians as both the heavily psychedelic rock oriented Funkadelic to the more horn based and doo wop influenced Parliament: two names,one band. With so many spin off satellites from this internal funk music community called P-Funk and a burgeoning drug issue that went from marijuana,LSD and finally to crack cocaine the enormous musical “anti empire” Clinton creative fell apart during the 1980’s. Only to be revived later in the decade by the strong promotion of Prince,who signed him to his Paisley Park label and the enormous interest during the early 90’s through hip-hop sampling.
Though Clinton’s entire perception during my adolescence was as an icon whose fan base often made him seem far more commercially popular as he actually had been,even commercially Clinton could make huge splashes now and then during his heyday and beyond. His P-Funk sound was decidedly non commercial and didn’t present itself in a particularly marketable way. But what made him so successful was his wonderful social satire. Again the 1990’s perceived P-Funk as a “pure escapist fantasy” to coin a phrase. Actually it was anything but. Clinton utilized the metaphor of funk music as an cosmic science fiction mythos to identify his music strongly with both an African American and an African historical consciousness-skillfully using humor to make his points. He consistently used the term “dance” in his music to refer to the dance of life we all do. And therefore gave humanity itself a fully musical identity and providing a core aural language for the funk genre. He often played up his on contradictions as well-using hallucinogenic drugs as musical inspiration while writing many cautionary tales against decadence in songs such as “Better By The Pound” and the philosophically inclined “Good Thoughts,Bad Thoughts”. His musical life has always been a journey he’s danced through along with the rest of us. And considering how positive recent years have been for him,the groove goes on.