George Clinton, Still Radiating the Funk

Shedding Light on a Funk Classic

 

George Clinton says he draws inspiration from his days in the '60s as a Motown songwriter. In this interview excerpt, he describes working with Parliament band mates Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell to create the funk classic "Flash Light."

Hear That Funky Music

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Atomic Dog"
  • Album: Computer Games
  • Artist: George Clinton
  • Label: EMI
  • Released: 1982
 
close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)"
  • Album: Funked Up: The Very Best of Parliament
  • Artist: Parliament
  • Label: Mercury
  • Released: 2002
 
close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Flash Light"
  • Album: Funked Up: The Very Best of Parliament
  • Artist: Parliament
  • Label: Mercury
  • Released: 2002
 
close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Bounce 2 This"
  • Album: How Late Do U Have 2 B B 4 U R Absent?
  • Artist: The P-Funk All Stars
  • Label: Nocturne
  • Released: 2005
 
George Clinton, aka Dr. Funkenstein. i i

hide captionGeorge Clinton, aka Dr. Funkenstein.

Nitin Vadukul
George Clinton, aka Dr. Funkenstein.

George Clinton, aka Dr. Funkenstein.

Nitin Vadukul

If James Brown is the Godfather of Soul, George Clinton is the Crown Prince of Funk. He's the ringleader of Parliament and Funkadelic. Their shows in the '70s featured an apparition called The Mothership.

George Clinton hasn't had a hit in years. As he likes to say, though, funk is the DNA for rap. Tunes like "Atomic Dog" have been sampled over and over. His music is recycled on records by Public Enemy, Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg.

In true funkmaster fashion, here's how Clinton describes what he does:

"Psychoalphadiscobetabioaqua- doloop — the art of dancin' underwater and not gettin' wet. That'd be my job..."

Clinton recalls the unlikely way his early '80s hit "Atomic Dog" ("This is the story of a famous dog, about a dog that chases its tail...") came together in the studio, thanks to a backward-tape machine, overlaid drums and puzzled engineers that let it all go down.

"I just had the word 'dog,'" Clinton says. "That's all I had in my mind. I had to ad lib a lot of it. The track was atomic. It's a futurist track... I don't still hear no tracks like that one."

Clinton, in his mid-60s, still tours with a band of almost 30 people, most in outlandish costumes. He says it's a waste of time trying to analyze what the band is up to. "Can't even count us," he says.

Stage props over the years have included a huge denim hat, and a gigantic puppet that wore a baseball glove and tapped its foot. Clinton says the roadies got tired of dealing with the puppet, though, and ditched it somewhere along I-95.

Clinton's pervasive influence on today's pop music isn't limited to rap. He produced an early record by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Freaky Styley. Much of that record was made at Clinton's house in Michigan.

Features in this series are produced by David Schulman and NPR's Jeffrey Freymann-Weyr.

Purchase Featured Music

Computer Games

Purchase Music

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • Album: Computer Games
  • Artist: George Clinton
  • Label: Capitol
  • Released: 1991
 

Funked Up: The Very Best of Parliament

Purchase Music

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • Album: Funked Up: The Very Best of Parliament
  • Artist: Parliament
  • Label: Mercury
  • Released: 2002
 

How Late Do You Have 2BB4UR Absent?

Purchase Music

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • Album: How Late Do You Have 2BB4UR Absent?
  • Artist: George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars
  • Label: The C Kunspyruhzy
  • Released: 2005
 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.