Brothas Be, Yo Like George: Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You?
By Norman (Otis) Richmond aka Jalali
"George Clinton aka Dr. Funkenstein alias The Long Head Sucker is about sex, drugs and funk & roll.” Clinton is much more, for sure. He is a visionary who, as Nelson George has pointed out, "Happens to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of pop music, from doo wop to hip-hop.”
Clinton’s new memoir, "Brothas Be, Yo Like: Ain’t That Kinda Hard On You?” is about his struggle to recoup the money that has been ripped off from him and members of Parliament/Funkadelic by the avaricious business world.
Clinton’s memoir is a serious critique of the recording industry. In interviews Clinton tells everyone to read his book from page 379 on. It is the reason he wrote this volume.
He goes into great detail about how he and his band members have been picked clean by the business. Says Clinton, “The total amounts left behind are paltry when they should have been a hundred or two hundred thousand dollars a year minimum.
You’re talking about millions of records sold, in four different formats (vinyl, cassette, CD and download) and then beyond that all the licensing and sampling.”
Many of these players have international connections.
George Clinton has Canadian connections
Clinton has a Toronto, Canada connection. He discusses his Canadian links many times in his memoir.
He grew up in Newark, New Jersey but spent most of his time in Plainfield, New Jersey where he first worked in the Silk Palace, a barbershop he eventually owned.
He used to fry, dye and slick to the side the hair of Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson. He also lists Patti LaBelle as one of his former clients.
Before the funk there was doo wop and Clinton was first moved by “Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.”
Frankie Lymon was Michael Jackson fifteen years before the real Michael Jackson. Lymon inspired Clinton's group, which became the Parliaments, named for the cigarettes. Vocal groups were named after cigarettes and cars in the 1950s.
Clinton named his singing group the Parliaments after the cancer stick. Ray Davis, Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins, Calvin Simon and Clinton were the line-up of the group. The group was formed in Newark in the 1950s.
The musical component Funkadelic (Billy Bass Nelson, Eddie Hazel, Lucius Ross aka Tawl Ross, Tiki Fulwood and Bernie Worrell) were recruited from Clinton’s barbershop in Plainfield, New Jersey.
Clinton also sent the second wave of Funkadelic (Cordell “Boogie” Mosson and Garry Shider) to warm up in the bullpen in Toronto.
Says Clinton, “…We needed a futile place for them to play and evolve and, just as important, a safe place for them to escape a drug and crime scene in Plainfield that was getting worse by the minute.”
One of the reasons Clinton has a soft spot for Canada is because of the radio station CKLW. CKLW was a 50,000 watt station which held sway over much of the upper Midwest. This Windsor, Ontario, Canada radio station CKLW helped propel the Parliaments single (I Wanna Testify) to hitsville, in 1967.
Clinton would later meet Ron Scribner, a Euro-Canadian and a partner of Ronnie Hawkins, who was a member of the Band that backed Bob Dylan on his first electric tour. He ran a Toronto agency that managed the Guess Who and other high profile Canadian acts.
Clinton brought folks from New Jersey to Bombay together
The Funk man found other former folks from New Jersey like Dianne Brooks in Toronto when he arrived. Brooks joined the ancestors on April 29, 2005 in Toronto.
Clinton also recruited Prakash John, an Indo-Canadian who was born in Bombay. John worked with Parliament/Funkadelic on the albums 'Chocolate City' and 'America Eats Its Young' while sharing bass playing duties with William “Bootsy" Collins on tour.
Black power for black people
While I admire Clinton’s cultural contribution, drive, leadership and entrepreneurial skills his politics demonstrate why politics must be in the front of our struggle for world African Liberation.
Says Clinton “I was never a huge fan of the Black Power movement, I admired their aims, but I was more about dogs than dogma. I wasn’t likely to get into a shootout with Black Panthers and Samba Wachanga (the military unit of the US organization) and I sure as shit wasn’t going to get caught in the crossfire.”
Clinton should understand that Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party were right when they called for “Power to the People” and "Black Power for Black People.” Despite his skepticism. . . he has experienced what most Africans in America have experienced.
In 1967 the Parliaments were topping the charts with “I Wanna Testify.” They were still dogged by the State. Clinton has the final words. "In fact, we were in New Jersey for the Irvington riots. Traffic was snarled and we had to walk despite the heat.
We had just bought these new suits, and when we ran into the police blockage, the officers made us put our jackets on the ground, where they stomped on them to see if we had weapons.”