Veteran funk singer/songwriter/producer George Clinton, who pioneered a soul/funk/rock fusion in the '70s with his Parliament/Funkadelic collective, is still a strong presence on the contemporary music scene.
George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars, as his current band is known, will be playing this weekend's Woodstock '99 Festival in Rome, N.Y.
Clinton was born 59 years ago today in Kannapolis, N.C. During the '50s he lived in Plainfield, N.J., where he worked straightening hair in a barbershop. Around this time, he also founded a struggling vocal group called the Parliaments.
In the '60s, Clinton moved to Detroit to work as a staff writer for Motown Records. In 1967, the Parliaments had their first hit with Clinton's love song "(I Wanna) Testify." Clinton began hanging out with hippies and listening to hard-rock bands such as the MC5, the Stooges and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The Parliament single "All Your Goodies Are Gone" was the first evidence of the funkier rock direction for which the group became famous. In 1967, Clinton became embroiled in a legal battle over the Parliament name, so he and his bandmembers began using the name Funkadelic on record.
Clinton won the lawsuit and began using both names Funkadelic and Parliament (without the s) for his music. Though early Funkadelic records were more experimental than Parliament's, the bands' styles began to merge.
Clinton became infamous for his wild stage antics, such as jumping out of a coffin and encouraging musicians to simulate sex onstage. He would often comment on urban and minority problems using racist language from his Process Church of Final Judgment movement.
Parliament had a top-10 R&B hit with 1974's "Up for the Down Stroke." As Clinton's name recognition grew, top musicians such as James Brown bassist Bootsy Collins and Ohio Players keyboardist Junie Morrison began joining the P-Funk fold. Clinton and company reached a peak in popularity with 1976's Mothership Connection and #15 pop single "Tear the Roof off the Sucker." P-Funk concerts began featuring a large, descending spaceship.
Commercial success continued with Parliament's #1 R&B hit "Flash Light," the platinum 1977 LP Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome, and the 1979 #1 R&B smash "Aqua Boogie." Funkadelic had a pop and R&B hit in 1978 with "One Nation Under a Groove."
The '80s brought dissension to the P-Funk ranks, with members leaving over legal and artistic problems. Clinton recorded a few independent singles with the P-Funk All-Stars and released a solo LP, 1982's Computer Games. The album yielded the #1 R&B hit "Atomic Dog."
Clinton then took a six-year sabbatical from music. While he was gone, the emerging community of rap artists often sampled his work. In 1985, Clinton produced the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Freaky Styley.
In 1989, Clinton issued The Cinderella Theory on Prince's Paisley Park label and regrouped the All-Stars for touring. Hey Man ... Smell My Finger (1993) featured Ice Cube, Yo-Yo, and a few Chili Peppers. The following year, Clinton was part of the Lollapalooza tour.
Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars released The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership in 1996. Two years later, they issued Dope Dogs. The 1996 Clinton collection, Greatest Funkin' Hits, featured "Bop Gun (One Nation)" ( RealAudio excerpt), with Ice Cube.
In February, Clinton performed with Stevie Wonder and Wyclef Jean at the 6th annual Rock the Vote ceremonies at the House of Blues in Los Angeles.
On the recently released soundtrack to the "Muppets From Space" movie, Clinton performed "Flash Light" with a new bilingual Muppet named Pepe.
Other birthdays: Estelle Bennett (Ronettes), 55; Richard Davies (Supertramp), 55; Don Henley. 52; Keith Sweat, 38; Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls), 36; and Pat Badger (Extreme), 32.