The Mothership is Coming: The Legend of George Clinton

With George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic heading into the Liverpool 02 Academy on July 29th, SFN‘s Editor-in-Chief and Funk columnist Jack Cinnamond decided to give us information on the “Godfather of Funk” himself, George Clinton

 George Clinton, James Brown and Sly Stone. Those three men, three behemoths of music forced Funk to the forefront of music in the late ’60s and throughout the ’70s, yet no matter how many people did a James Brown impression while blasting “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” or they could continually sing the “Boom laka-laka-laka, boom laka-laka-laka” from Sly & The Family Stone’s “I Wanna Take You Higher”, none of that mattered compared to George Clinton. It doesn’t matter how many hits Brown or Sly had or how much success, nobody was more prolific during the ’70s than Clinton. Clinton released 19 albums from ’70 to ’81, and almost every one of them defined funk and can be considered as greats of the genre.

Parliament-Funkadelic in the late ’70s. Photograph via CBC Radio.

In the title track of Mothership Connection (Casablanca, 1975) it’s said “light years in time, ahead of our time” which is possibly the truest lyrics Clinton ever wrote wrapped up in his concept masterpiece. Clinton was ahead of the funk genre he was in, he was so far ahead that he created a new genre to hold himself, the wonderful P-Funk. P-Funk was the brainchild of Clinton, characterised around numerous staples such as the music’s history to have steady drumming, a very live band sound, that jazzy electric bass (by none other than Bootsy Collins baby) and most importantly, the extended use of production equipment and techniques that Clinton used that were far away from what anyone was doing at the time. Clinton was a powerful producer, he produced nearly every album he’s ever worked on with his sophisticated use of multi-track recording to create a fresh and clear sound for his work.

His ability to make every record sound clear and booming with high quality sound gave Clinton easy room to extend his legacy beyond his own power. George Clinton is the most sampled artist in music history. That’s a fact, from the late 80s many rap artists would sample his work since it’d successfully express what they wanted to state musically while they vocally powered over it. Gangsta rap artists become such avid users of P-Funk that it birthed the whole G-Funk idealism, created by Dr. Dre.

Parliament-Funkadelic Portrait In England
George Clinton & Parliment-Funkadelic pose for a photo from the last time the band played Liverpool in 1971. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

In 1982, after Polygram‘ buyout of Casablanca which embroiled Clinton in a complex legal battle of the Parliament name/rights, Clinton decided to end Parliament and Funkadelic  release some materiel under his own name. He signed with Capitol Records under his own name and P-Funk All Stars and released Computer Games (Capitol Records, 1982) at the end of 1992. Computer Games was a sign that Clinton still had it, bringing some of his best songs (“Atomic Dog”, “Loopzilla” etc.) to the table. Over the next four years, he release more solo albums with the original Parliament-Funkadelic core line-up helping him.

In 1985, Clinton was brought in by EMI on the request of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to produce Freaky Styley (EMI, 1985). Clinton instantly bonded with the Chili Peppers due to both act’s odd personalities.

Ronnie Wood (of The Rolling Stones), RHCP‘s Anthony Kiedis and George Clinton, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2012. Photograph via Rolling Stone.

They bonded so well that in the studio, stationed in Detroit, Clinton & the Chili Peppers began doing cocaine together. There’s a tale around that one day Clinton‘s “Eastern European” drug dealer came into the studio to get his money from Clinton to which Clinton couldn’t pay. Ironically, Clinton‘s dealer was very interested in how recording an album works and the only way they could get him to leave was to actually (no seriously, this is true) have the unnamed dealer on the album. The drug dealer is actually heard doing backing vocals on “Yertle The Turtle”, where the dealer repeats the “look at that turtle go bro” throughout.

The album was released to very favourable reviews, being the closest to true Funk that the Chili Peppers would ever get (however, you can hear it in almost every RHCP song) however it did awful commercially. Bassist Flea noted in 2003 that the album was “too funky for white radio, too punk rockin’ for black.”.

Photo by Christie Goodwin

Clinton began laying a little more low after the release of R&B Skeletons in My Closet (Capitol, 1986), around this time rap artists began sampling Clinton‘s work. Clinton remarked in a 1996 interview with Q Magazine, “Sure, sample my stuff. Ain’t a better time to get paid than when you’re my age. You know what to do with money. You don’t buy as much pussy or drugs with it – you just buy some.” 

Clinton was away from the music industry for 5 years before he made, what is often believed as his comeback record, The Cinderella Theory (Paisley Park, 1991) on the record label owned by Prince. Clinton followed this up with Smell My Finger (Paisley Park, 1993), both critically favoured.

In 1994, Clinton worked with Primal Scream on their fourth album Give Out But Don’t Give Up (Creation Records/Sire Records, 1994), working with them on several songs. He covered John Lennon‘s “Mind Games” in 1995 for a tribute album before returning to doing his own work. Clinton then released his last album for nine years, T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M (Sony 550, 1996).

T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M (The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothershipwas in all ways, a reunion album for P-Funk. Clinton brought back his early bandmates from Parliament-Funkadelic to bring that old school Mothership feel to the album. Critically the album was highly favorited.


The Mothership Reconnection Tour followed, bringing the P-Funk All Stars, Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell back on the road with Clinton, the tour included the landing of the famous spaceship. Clinton fell back into a series of years without making music due to legal issues stemming from his recordings.

In between the legal battles and none-recording time, Clinton and the newly reunited Parliment-Funkadelic line-up did extensive touring, which rejuvenated the band’s line-up by mending past issues between members and bringing in new P-Funk talent. The band played numerous high profile events such as Lollapalooza 1994 and Woodstock ’99.

After nine years, Clinton returned with new studio work in the form of How Late Do U Have 2BB4UR Absent? (The C Kunspyruhzy, 2005). The almost two and a half hours lasting double album by George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars contained recorded songs dating back to early 1988 and featured almost everyone. After a very long court battle, Clinton was freely able to use Parliament-Funkadelic songs in the album.

The record featured artists including Prince, Trey Lewd, Joi, Bobby Womack and many more. The album featured a mixed response from critics, however more praise in later years.

George Clinton, Prince and Ice Cube via OkayPlayer

Not a long time after, Clinton‘s (currently) final album was released to the world in the form of George Clinton & His Gangsters of Love (Shanachie, 2008) or otherwise known as Radio Friendly. The covers album featured fellow Funk counterpart Sly Stone, Red Hot Chili Peppers, RZA, Carlos Santana and others.


Since the release of …& His Gangsters of Love, George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic have simply been touring. Doing what they do best around the world in-front of audiences that adore them, while Clinton keeps his fingers in other people’s pies, like most recently being a feature on the world renowned Kendrick Lamar album To Pimp a Butterfly (Interscope, 2015) song “Wesley’s Theory”.

Photography via BBC Radio.

Clinton & Parliment-Funkadelic arrive at the Liverpool 02 Academy on July 29th and it’s sure to be one heck’ of a show with the legend preforming with his band. You can grab tickets to the gig right here.

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