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Tearin' the roof off with George Clinton

George Clinton at the KPCC studios to discuss his new memoir.
George Clinton at the KPCC studios to discuss his new memoir.
William Thoren

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Whenever George Clinton hears the adage, If you remember the ‘60s, you weren’t there,' he's got an answer: “I was there for real!”

Dr. Funkenstein, now 73, recently visited KPCC to discuss some of his iconic music, as well as his entertaining new memoir, "Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?"

In the book, he details his rise from scuffling doo-wop singer in the 1950s to tripped-out acid rocker during the '60s, and then his funky you-had-to-be-there meteoric rise throughout the '70s as symbolized by his creation of the Mothership, and his music empire’s massive stamp on the evolution of hip hop in the '80s and beyond. It’s a compelling, often humorous tale, rich with details awash in astronomical highs and drugged-out lows.


On the early years

During 1959, ’60, I’m trying to be a doo-wop singer. The Coasters had a big influence on me. I worked right next to Leiber and Stoller and I thought that was the funniest stuff in the world. And we [the Parliaments] could do that for real. And “Poor Willie” [our first single] was our shot at becoming…[sings] Poor Willie, look at Willie got a bro-o-ken heart.

The next phase

I had no idea what I was doing. I just was trying to come to a sound that I was hearing on stuff that I liked. We came out there for “Testify," which was a hit right at the same time as “Sgt Pepper’s”… We never had a chance to do what we had planned on, Parliament-wise. We had a couple of suits, but soon after we got to Detroit we pretty much started realizing we had to at least just have nothing but a flowery T-shirt and some beads. We realized immediately the suits wasn’t necessary.

Doin' their thang

I was trying to shock. "Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow" —  I didn’t know what I was saying. We knew we was on our way into a psychedelic thang. And that’s where we went with it. Our mission was to stay underground and not try to be competing with Top 40, 'cause I wanted to do an album that would be like jazz or rock 'n' roll… Where people would have the albums forever.

But I could agree and go and try and get a hit record. We did. “Chocolate City” was a hit. “Up for the Downstroke” first, then “Chocolate City.” But when “Mothership” happened and it was a hit, I knew [that] you don’t get paid on the back end anyway from record companies. But they will pay bills. Get me a spaceship! Got me a spaceship. I promoted Parliament, Funkadelic, who was on another label — I offered them Bootsy [Collins]… So we promoted all three groups with that spaceship for 10 years.

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