The Secret Origin of George Clinton


October 27, 2013 by NowhereButPop

By Andrew Doscas

In Ancient Greek mythology, it was believed that from the misfired ejaculate of the god Hephaestus, the future king of Athens, Erichthonius, sprang up from the earth.  Similarly, funk music is pretty much the misfired ejaculate of George Clinton.

George Clinton is most closely linked to funk music than any other musician is linked to a genre.  The association between Clinton and funk music I think trumps Michael Jackson and pop, James Brown and soul, and the Elvis and rock music.  George Clinton is Dr. Frankenstein, who, in a fit of madness (a madness that has been going strong for 50 years now) created this monster known as funk music from various corpses of other genres of music.  Despite not knowing any song by George Clinton until I was 19, I always knew who George Clinton was; he was the crazy guy with the weird hair from Good Burger.  Even the first time I saw it, I thought to myself “what the hell is George Clinton doing in this movie”.  I don’t know why but for some reason, I’ve always had knowledge of who George Clinton is, and I don’t know exactly how I attained this knowledge.

Beyond any other musician, George Clinton has the most interesting origin story; he was born in an outhouse in North Carolina sometime between 1940-1942.  By the late 50s Clinton was working at a barbershop, where he initially tried to put together a doo-wop group in the same vein as Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.  This failed and from the ashes this group, Clinton somehow found himself working as a staff writer for Motown.  Come the late 60s when the floodgates of musical experimentalism were unleashed, Clinton decided to create this monster known as funk, most noticeably in his two bands, Parliament and Funkadelic.

There really is no difference between the two save for legal troubles.  Both bands used the same musicians, wrote the same music, and were the asexual offspring of George Clinton.[1]  He only created Funkadelic because he wasn’t legally able to use Parliament anymore; once he got the rights to the name back, he didn’t change the name back to Parliament, but used the term Parliament Funkadelic or “P-Funk” as an overarching and meta-description for both bands existing as individual entities.  I realized that trying to make sense of what’s Funkadelic and what’s Parliament and how they intertwine is completely futile.  It’s a lot easier to make sense of the X-Men continuity than it is to figure out George Clinton’s discography.

Unlike the 70s, which was Clinton’s golden age, the 80s were a bit more unkind to him.  The only two things that happened were that he released his signature song “Atomic Dog” in 1982 and also produced Freaky Styley by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1985.  During this time Clinton and the RHCP exacerbated each other’s drug habits to the point where they couldn’t pay off Clinton’s personal drug dealer.  Instead of paying him, Clinton decided to have him (his drug dealer) sing backup vocals on a few tracks on the album.  To put it simply, George Clinton had out-drug abused the Chili Peppers when they were at their most dependent on drugs.

Now, the greatness of George Clinton is entirely based upon his legacy and his image.  Nothing about George Clinton is ironic or synthetic- everybody knows this.  When rappers like Tupac and Snoop Dogg started citing him as a major influence in their music, it brought Clinton back into the realm of significance.  Not only that, but it made people realize that for all his eccentricities, oddities, and blatant acts of borderline insanity, George Clinton is entirely unironic and well respected.  Sort of like Prince, what protects Clinton from being ironically adored is that people understand that he is an amazing musician, that singlehandedly crafted funk music from seemingly nothing.

While it’s his personal life and off-beat personality that people lampoon and satire, his musical prowess is never called into question because we all know that it’s objectively good and innovative music.  He’s immune to this current wave of trendy irony because the insanity of George Clinton as a person, which is what would make him the ideal candidate to be loved ironically, is also the fueling factor of critically acclaimed music that influenced everyone from the Chili Peppers to Tupac.  There’s nothing ironic about that.  The greatness of George Clinton lies in his legacy, a legacy that will never be tarnished by insincere fans of offbeat irony.  For all his musical accomplishments, there is no room for people not to take him seriously, the greatest of which was creating this freakish monster known as funk music.  We need the funk indeed, and George Clinton gave it to us; there’s nothing ironic about that.

[1] There are many forms of asexual reproduction, but I like to think that George Clinton underwent parthenogenesis in order to create Parliament and Funkadelic.


One thought on “The Secret Origin of George Clinton

  1. crazychris says:

    long live dr. funkenstein his work since the 50’s is amazing long live parliament funkadelic or the p funk all stars and the whole entourage who was on board the mothership.

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