The funky truth

The legendary George Clinton brings funk back to Dayton

George Clinton; photo: William Thoren Photography

By Joseph Ferber

For a moment, Dayton City Paper was an exclusive listener to a new phase in funk history. Skeptical that a direct line existed to funk’s most innovative forefather, we found all suspicion suspended as our call for a phone interview answered to the tune of synthesizers and snare drums smacking on the two’s and four’s. We knew then, we were in the presence of a legend.

“Yeah. I’m in here doin’ the Parliament album now. Called Medicaid Fraud Dogs. Tryin’ to get it done before Thanksgiving.”

The one and only George Clinton pauses the track and without reservation begins to describe the content of his current project: a forthcoming Parliament record that doesn’t appear to stray from his tenure as an artist unafraid to express disdain for institutionalized corruption.

“Well, it’s all ‘bout all this insurance and medicine and um, fraud and all of the different kind of insurance and medicine fraud bullshit. Especially with drugs and all that, you know. And the government and all this whole Medicaid thing. It’s one nation under sedation. That’s one of the songs…It’s being sold to you just like water is being sold to you.”

Pegged as being political doesn’t do Clinton’s music justice. His songs are substance, not semantics. While a certainty rings true having to spell funk with F, U, N, perhaps Clinton would be more aptly acknowledged as the artist more likely to put the “F, U” in the genre’s title. When asked about the greatest danger to people today, Clinton responds emphatically, “The motherf—er we got in power with a nuclear weapon under his finger. I mean, damn. Just pray.” Clinton’s rendition of funk sacrifices no freshness for message. Hearty laughter and declaration dance together like the lively depth of the insightful answers Clinton offers.

“I can just do my songs and put out ‘What if this? What if that?’ Some things to think about. I ain’t got no answers. It’s some hard shit to do and—WOW—you know? And we still evolving so we don’t know no f—in’ answers. Soon as you find out something, you evolve into a whole [other] generation of beings.”

In the face of the powers that be, Clinton seems to offer a simple recipe for conducting good in the world.

“Dance!” (Evolve.) “Get involved…Nobody, I don’t think, mean wrong, but you can f— up. I don’t think nobody do it intentionally but a lot of shit dictates what we do…I don’t know. I’m just hopin’. I don’t know shit. I’m glad to still be here after all I done been through. I’m thankful as hell. I had a lot of fun. And I wouldn’t advise nobody to follow my footsteps. But I’m happy as f—. I know that. I like what I’m doing so it’s not work. It’s something I like doing so f— it, everything that comes with it just comes with it. I learned from my lessons and now I’m having a ball…I look it at like, do the best you can. And then funk it. Everything I do, I do the best I know how and after that I ain’t goin’ to worry about it. And that’s such a load off your ass when you ain’t guilty or nothing. When you gave it your all. When you’re still givin’ it your all. Worry is the worst part about it. Regret and worry. And things I don’t like I try to change. Another thing is to make people think. I ain’t got no answers but once you start thinkin’ ‘bout certain things, you might be able to see someone else’s point of view. Which is the hardest thing in the world to do. Once you see through someone else’s eyes. Once you start thinkin’ like that, it’s a little different.”

On the cusp of conversation becoming too heavy, Clinton rhymes a dose of wisdom as if the words have played back in his mind thousands of times:

“Didn’t you know? Let go. It runs itself. It’s like, ‘Use the force, Luke.’ Pretty much get along without thinkin’ we know the answers to everything. Some things we have to think our way out of. Sometimes we just have to leave it alone…you have to understand you can’t project onto somebody what you want it to be. You might be from a different part of the world, and it’s so many different variations of shit. Listen. You have a lot to say. But can you listen a lot?”

In his songs, writing for connection is key.

“You have to figure out the right metaphors to say it for people to hear you. Because our blinds go up soon as we hear something we don’t wanna hear. Soon as someone approaches us. So you gotta figure a way to say it so they might contemplate it without being offended or they might shut down. You know. ‘Cause we all got them same problems. We may not know we’re contributing to them, but somewhere along the lines we got that same problem somewhere. We all contributed something to it for it to be a reality.”

George Clinton takes the stage with a combined outfit of Parliament Funkadelic on Sunday, Aug. 20 at the Rose Music Center, 6800 Executive Blvd. in Huber Heights. Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets start at $23.50. For tickets or more information, please call 937.610.0288 or visit RoseMusicCenter.com.

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Joey Ferber works out of St. Louis and Dayton as a musician and writer. You can hear him on electric guitar with St. Louis jazz-rap collective LOOPRAT at Looprat.Bandcamp.com and on his original theme song for the Dayton-based podcast series Unwritten at UnwrittenPodcast.com, for which he also contributed to as a scriptwriter. Reach him at JoeyFerber@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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