Parliament and Funkadelic

            Parliament and Funkadelic is difficult to define. While Parliament and Funkadelic are technically two separate groups performing funk, rock, and psychedelic soul music, they both stem from the 1950s doo wop group known as the Parliaments. All three of these groups shared the same notable lead musician, George Clinton, who became head of their music collective often referred to simply as Parliament-Funkadelic.

Both of Clinton’s group became known for their signature style (often referred to as P-Funk), and each had a large repertoire of classic hit funk songs in the late 1970s. After the decline of the disco era, their music continued to influence the music scene throughout the 1980s, especially late-seventies songs such as Parliament’s “Flash Light” and Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” Each of these songs was more than ten minutes long (the latter was actually more than fifteen minutes), and each has greatly influenced the hip hop genre. “Flash Dance” was influential due to its notable bass and rhythm guitar, while “Knee Deep” has actually been sampled in numerous rap and hip hop songs by artists such as MC Hammer, Tone Loc, Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre.

George Clinton is one of the most legendary names to come out of Parliament and Funkadelic, but the collective would not have been successful if it weren’t for the efforts of their other musicians. Clinton was magnetic, able to attract musicians such as saxophonist Maceo Parker, who had worked with James Brown. Parliament and Funkadelic also benefitted from the solid work of keyboardist Bernie Worrell and bassist Bootsy Collins. Interestingly enough, while Collins was the primary bassist associated with the Parliament-Funkadelic collective, the notable bass line on “Flash Dance” was actually created through the use of three synthesizers manned by Worrell.

These musicians were able to create musical arrangements unlike any others of their time. Their songs were not as predictable as those of many other musical groups, and they ranged from beautifully organized pieces to more experimental pieces making heavy use of Worrell’s synthesizers. Their unique and psychedelic funk sound was complemented by the covers of their albums.

Their songs and their album covers actually created what is now known as “P-Funk mythology,” an extensive fiction based on characters created by Parliament and Funkadelic. For instance, the concept album Mothership Connection resulted in the creation of the character Starchild. Albums such as Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome and Motor Booty Affair featured the funk alien’s nemesis, Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk. While these characters primarily appear on Parliament albums, the concept of “Funk” as a form of spiritualism is also present on Funkadelic albums such as Free Your Mind…And Your Ass Will Follow.

The collective of Parliament and Funkadelic was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. The inductees included sixteen members of both groups, making them the biggest band ever inducted into the Hall of Fame at one time. The collective essentially created the entire funk genre, and they have become one of the most sampled groups in hip hop history (especially the song “Atomic Dog”), leading to the creation of the G-funk (or “gangsta funk”) subgenre. George Clinton and Bootsy Collins are still active today, continuing to spread their influence across the music industry.

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