Book Review: “Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You?” A Memoir By George Clinton With Ben Greenman

By Devon Wendell

Finally the official autobiography of funk music’s most innovative architect is here.

There have been many books on George Clinton and the P-Funk legacy; many including interview excerpts but this is the first time we get the pure “uncut” details of Dr. Funkenstein’s life. Clinton has teamed up with best-selling Brooklyn fiction and nonfiction writer Ben Greenman (The Slippage and Meta Blues (co-written by Questlove) to help present a candid, personal look inside Clinton’s life, which has spanned more than half a century in the music business.

This book has Clinton cover his entire life. Clinton was born literally in an outhouse in North Carolina. He then became a popular hairstylist in Plainfield, New Jersey where he formed his barber shop quartet in the early ‘50s. After being inspired by Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers, he formed The Parliaments which started off as a doo-wop group that sang on street corners. After Motown came on the scene; Clinton’s sound became slicker as he and The Parliaments tried to get signed to Motown’s label.

After a brief stint writing for various Detroit labels and recording many popular sides with The Parliaments, including the mega-hit “Testify” on Revilot, Clinton and the other members of the group couldn’t keep their suits clean like The Temptations or their sound. George also began absorbing the influence of ‘60s psychedelic rock and absorbing plenty of LSD as The Parliaments morphed into Funkadelic.

From then on there was no stopping Clinton. Funkadelic fused the influences of Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and Sly And The Family Stone. Funkadelic became one of the wildest, most outrageous, and subsequently one of the first post-Hendrix black-rock groups of the time. Clinton had lost the rights to the name The Parliaments at the time and Funkadelic became his main focus.

Funkadelic was mainly an underground force to be reckoned with during early ‘70s. Mainstream success had eluded Clinton until he had gotten the rights back to the name The Parliaments and signed with Neil Bogart’s label Casablanca in 1974. George simply changed the name to Parliament. With the major contributions of Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, Garry Shider, and every artist in George’s funky collective, both Parliament and Funkadelic took the ‘70s and by storm, changing black music forever. Clinton was the first artist to present funk as both an attitude and a way of life which is clear in every chapter of this book.

George Clinton
George Clinton

From tales of the mothership landing onstage in front of thousands of P-Funk fans in the late ‘70s, to gruesome stories of drug abuse, crooks, and lawsuits, readers of this memoir get an inside look as to how this conceptual genius thinks and continues to move forward in an ever changing music industry. The odds were always stacked against Clinton and his ever-growing group of vagabond musicians but he has never stopped looking to the future and has never given up hope. Like Miles Davis; Clinton has never been one to get stuck in or by nostalgia.

A seemingly countless number of hip-hop artists have sampled P-Funk’s music beginning in the 1980s to the present. But, instead of dismissing the art form, George has encouraged the hip-hop community and even has incorporated his own “Rhythm and Rhymes” into the genre. Clinton also collaborated with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog, Ice Cube, Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy and many other hip-hop innovators. And he has produced and collaborated with such alternative rock bands as The Red Hot Chili Peppers And Primal Scream during the ‘90s who were heavily influenced by Funkadelic’s guitar driven funk.

Fans will be overjoyed by Clinton’s details, never heard before, of Parliament/Funkadelic recording sessions and tours. Clinton’s humorous wit, intelligence, and unique philosophies make this one of the most entertaining autobiographies or “memoirs” to surface in many years.

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