St. Funkenstein (Dr. Funkenstein) is actually George Clinton, the mastermind behind the two great 1970s funk bands, Parliament and Funkadelic. The bands revolutionized and dominated the music scene for nearly 10 years, racking up 40 R&B hit singles that included four number one hits: Flashlight, One Nation Under a Groove, Aqua Boogie and (Not Just) Knee Deep. Clintons collaborators included master keyboardist Bernie Worrel, guitarist Eddie Hazel, bassist Bootsy Collins, saxophonist Maceo Parker and trombonist Fred Wesley.
Now the Mothership is landing in Traverse City at Streeters Ground Zero Night Club. On board will be The Mother Funkster along with at least two-dozen P-Funk (combination of both bands) all-stars for a three-hour plus jam (Clinton and his band have been known to play for four hours).
Finding all-stars is not a problem for Clinton, as the Parliament-Funkadelic family boasts 264 members, (though the core players in the bands hey-day numbered about 20.)
While Clinton has 12 gold and four platinum albums to his credit it was his live show that created his legendary status. In the early days Clinton was known to work himself into such frenzy onstage that he often ended stripping off all of his clothes. A Parliament Funkadelic concert was quite the spectacle with an enormous mothership, outrageous costumes, and epic performances.
George Clinton is a legend. This will easily be one of the biggest shows of the year in Northern Michigan. Clinton was elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 10 years ago, before legends Michael Jackson, The Eagles and Paul McCartney. At least 500 musicians and bands have named Clinton as a major influence, including Michael Jackson, Rick James, Prince and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, (Clinton produced the bands second album). In 2004 Spin Magazine selected Parliament/Funkadelic as the sixth greatest rock and roll band of all time.
So will Clinton and his P-Funkers get into the Irish spirit of things and play a couple of jigs?
Sh*t, our whole show is one big jig, said Clinton. We are going to P-Funkify the night. The whole town will be funked up before we were done.
Clinton got his start in the 1950s as a doo-wop singer in a barbershop quartet (he actually worked as a barber) known as the Parliaments. They started in 1957 (he was a junior in high school) and finally had a hit in 1967 with the song (I Wanna) Testify. After a contract squabble Clinton moved to Detroit and began writing songs for Motown.
Clinton wasnt impressed with what he called over-polished Motown artists; instead he took to black artists (Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Sly Stone) who won over white audiences with their raw sound. He became a regular on the Detroit acid-rock scene drawing inspiration from the MC5, The Stooges and Alice Cooper.
While James Brown put funk into soul it was George Clinton who put funk into rock music. In 1969 he launched two bands, Parliament, which was a soul group with heavy horn infusions, and a rock group, Funkadelic, which fused psychedelic guitar distortion, bizarre sound effects, and cosmological rants with danceable beats, and booming bass lines which became the definition of funk. He split his time between both creating a lasting impact that is still felt by todays musicians.
I am Dr. Funkenstein and my DNA is all over the scene today, said Clinton. Hip-hop and rap was born out of funk, yeah funks DNA is definitely in the music of today.
Clinton is right; no ones music has been more sampled in rap music than his.
Yeah I birthed it man, said Clinton. I saw it coming so I made it easy for these guys and released a couple of albums for sampling. All these guys like Dre and Snoop have sampled my stuff.
By the 1980s, infighting, pursuit of solo careers and lawsuits over ownership of the Parliament/Funkadelic names sent Clinton down the path of his own solo career; for a time he even dropped out of sight.
You have to do that stuff, disappear for a while, spend time with your family, said Clinton. Plus, you know your fans start growing up and having kids and those kids dont want to listen to their parents music they want their own music. So I went under cover, you know what I mean, but as the Doctor, you know Dr. Funkenstein. I had already been spreading my DNA, so these kids were listening to my stuff without even knowing it.
In the 1990s Clinton resurfaced with his P-Funk All Stars and in 1993 Ice Cube and the Red Hot Chili Peppers played on his album and younger audiences flocked to his concerts. He landed a slot on the Lollapalooza Tour in 1994 and he quickly found himself the star of the tour.
He has spent the last 10 years touring on and off and last September he released How Late Do You Have 2BB4UR Absent, his first album in 10 years. His shows are still outrageous; though he says he is getting to old take off all of his clothes, the costumes are still wild and the music is as hot as ever.
So at 65, how much longer will Clinton keep up his four-hour concerts?
As long as we have gas in the Mothership well be around, said Clinton. I put out my first album in 1957, the ride has been a good one, a funky one. Here is the message, it is a simple one we said in 1969 and we are still saying it today. Behold, I am Funkadelic. I am not of your world. But fear me not, I will do you no harm. Loan me your funky mind and I shall play with it. For nothing is good unless you play with it. And all that is good, is nasty.
Clinton and his P-Funk All-Stars are guaranteeing that they will funkify Northern Michigan on Friday, March 17. He brings with him his P-Funk All Stars. Bootsy wont be with them but Clintons granddaughter, Sativa Diva, will share the vocals through the night. Doors open at 8 p.m. (though Streeters will be open earlier for St. Patricks Day festivities) and Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars will take the stage at 9 pm. For additional information or tickets (they are going quickly) visit www.streetersonsline.com