There is nary a soul that has collected a larger roster of musicians or imparted more mystique to his music than George Clinton. Where James Brown is the Godfather of Soul, George Clinton jumped in and became the Godfather of Funk.
In the late ’60s, Clinton was heavily influenced by the Detroit bands such as the MC-5 and the Stooges, he was also enamored by the protest-heavy nature of the time, so he decided to put his own unique twist on it. Bringing together a vastly diverse group of musicians including classically trained pianist Bernie Worrel, guitar geniuses Gary Shider and Eddie Hazel, and James Brown proteges Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley, Clinton’s creation boiled over into a funk froth that is now music legend. Today, decades later, Clinton is still recruiting members of Uncle Jam’s Army, many of them a fraction of his age.
In a culture that constantly thrives for change, it’s amazing to realize that George Clinton has been consistently putting out booty-moving music for over 30 years that still continues to attract attention from the biggest names in the industry. Clinton’s mixed personality—half off the wall and half cool—combined with his easy rapport with the countless rappers that sample his music, have kept him rolling through more recent times, when funk hasn’t been on the mind of every pop-crazed 16 year-old in the country.
During the ’80s and its onslaught of metal, new-wave pop and other challengers, Clinton persevered until he finally found what he needed to revive his career: rap. Artists such a Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Humpy Hump (Digital Underground) and Prince Paul (De La Soul) had grown up with healthy doses of Clinton’s grooves and they new the power in them. Some were hesitant to use his jams fearing they’d offend Clinton, but they quickly found him to be a beneficial ally, and anyone who still throws on Dre’s “The Chronic” at their parties has George Clinton to thank.
Clinton’s show in Missoula in 1998 was a relentless hours-long mash of funk-hop. Some people complained about the length of some of the jams the band strayed into, but those folks should remember that testing traditional musical boundaries is one of Clinton’s games. With that in mind, it’s easy to appreciate the pure musicianship without concentrating on the fact that the song wouldn’t fly on top-40 radio.
Instrumentation is also something that is anything but traditional at a P-Funk show; expect several guitarists, probably two bassists, several vocalists, keyboardists and more all on the stage at the same time. Today Clinton tours with musicians that cross every part of his long career. You can expect original alumnus in Michael Hampton and Gary Shider jamming alongside newer recruits such as former post-Herbie Hancock Headhunter Dwayne “Blackbird” McNight and Clinton’s rapping granddaughter Shouda.
With his funk army in tow, Clinton is poised to blow up Missoula once again. Just try to refrain from moshing this time, please.
George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars play the Adams Center, Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. Tickets, $25.50, available at all TIC-It-EZ outlets, call 1-800-MONTANA.