In 1994, I had the pleasure of meeting funk singer-songwriter George Clinton while attending the Lollapalooza music festival in New Orleans. Clinton and his P-Funk All Stars were main-stage performers that year. A friend of mine and myself were able to get backstage after meeting one of the members of his band. Clinton and his crew were getting ready in their trailer, and I had a chance to chat with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer for a very brief moment. Following, we enjoyed a front-and-center view of his performance, which was fantastic.
Twenty years later, things came full circle of sorts when Clinton was here at the Library last Friday. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, he was here promoting his book, “Brothers Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?” and speaking about his decades-long musical career.
“Funkin’ ain’t hard at all,” said the 73-year-old funk pioneer as he took the Coolidge Auditorium stage to be interviewed by James Funk of WPFW.
The two bantered back and forth for the next 20 minutes, discussing just about everything, including Clinton’s early days with The Parliaments in the 1960s, developing his musical collective during the 70s known both as Parliament and Funkadelic, his efforts to win back rights to much of his popular music and the indelible mark his music has made on contemporary artists of today.
“We were too late getting to Motown, and we didn’t fit into that mold,” said Clinton. “We went psychedelic ‘loud Motown.’ We made our own niche and then didn’t have to compete.”
Clinton said his fan base grew slowly but steadily. When his 1975 album “Mothership Connection” came out, it “blew the whole thing wide open.” It became Parliament’s first album to be certified gold and later platinum. The Library also added the album to the National Recording Registry in 2011 for its “enormous influence on jazz, rock and dance music.”
“I’ve enjoyed all the time it took to get where I’m at,” he said of his career’s successes and setbacks.
While Clinton didn’t bring the weird on the Halloween afternoon – gone were the multi-colored dreadlocks and flashy clothes that I remembered, along with is costume-clad band – he did bring the funk, rousing the crowd with a musical medley of some of his greatest hits. And, he was just as entertaining.