Smile Politely

One nation under a groove: a George Clinton primer

As was mentioned in this week’s Overture, modern music wouldn’t exist, no, couldn’t exist, without George Clinton. That type of creative force tends to reinvent itself over time, and Clinton’s career is no exception. Beginning with doo-wop and progressing to alien mythology-based space funk, Clinton and the various incarnations of Parliament Funkadelic have covered a lot of ground.

Tonight at 9 p.m. at the Canopy Club, Clinton takes the stage with Parliament Funkadelic, intent as always on getting down just for the funk of it (tickets are $30 at the door). But it wasn’t always that way…


Those clean-cut New Jersey folks to your left don’t bear much of a resemblance to the cosmic, acid-fueled funk tour de force that most people associate with George Clinton and his various incarnations over the last 50 years. However, that’s where that sound got its start.

Clinton was a cutting hair in a Newark barbershop when he formed the Parliaments, a pop and R&B group that recorded from the late ’50s through the mid-’60s. They had a few charting singles, including the song featured in the video below:

“That Was My Girl,” 1964


As the ’60s wore on, the Parliaments had to change their name for legal reasons, and started recording under the Funkadelic moniker in 1969. Clinton assimilated Bootsy Collins and several other disgruntled former members of James Brown’s backing band to up the funk quotient of the collective.

At some point in there, it’s apparent that the gents freed their minds (with their asses following) and combined healthy helpings of Jimi Hendrix and James Brown into an unstoppable, wholly unique concoction.

“Testify,” 1974


Throughout the ’70s, Clinton and Parliament, Funkadelic, Parliament Funkadelic, the P-Funk All Stars and numerous other splinter groups continued to test the limits of both wardrobe ridiculousness and musical creativity.

From Wikipedia, “The albums of this period had morphed into concept albums, with bizarre, space-age themes that carried elaborate and poignant political and sociological messages, and were usually linked between albums.”

“Maggot Brain,” 1978

“One Nation Under a Groove,” 1978


Clinton has recorded primarily under his own name since the early ’80s. “By 1980, George Clinton began to be weighed down by legal difficulties arising from Polygram’s acquisition of Parliament’s label, Casablanca,” according to his VH1 biography.”Jettisoning both the Parliament and Funkadelic names (but not the musicians), Clinton signed to Capitol in 1982 both as a solo act and as the P.Funk All-Stars.”

He’s had a handful of notable albums and singles during that time, including “Atomic Dog”:

“Atomic Dog,” 1982

After a half-century of innovation, Clinton is still on the road, spreading the gospel of funk. Don’t miss your chance to see an institution this close to home.

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