Before they were the most funky of them all, Funkadelic were an incredibly talented indie band that struggled for years. #funkadelic #indiemusic #psychedelicsoul #funk #pfunk
NOTE: This program contains language and subject matter some may find objectionable.
During this program, we are going to feature tracks from Funkadelic, a group that has received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award and have been inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame. Mind you, during the period we cover here, these things would have seemed like non-starters.
They struggled financially for over a decade, signed to a Detroit-based independent label, Westbound; They received their first Gold record as Funkadleic in 1978 only after being signed to a major label and a massive stylistic change due to an association with their alter-ego sister band, Parliament, a group with practically the same membership as Funkadelic that properly launched in 1974.
Funkadleic were the more Rock-oriented act, and Parliament the more-R&B-oriented act. At various times, both monikers released albums in the same year. The thing that held it all together is a musician, bandleader, songwriter and producer originally from North Carolina, George Clinton.
Often credited as one of the pillars in the development of Funk music, Clinton and literally two dozen people eventually passed through the ranks of Parliament and Funkadelic, which also included offshoot groups and solo projects. All in all, during their entire history, that is almost 30 albums of material in a 15-year stretch, or about two a year on average. Additionally, their live shows were often 2 1/2 to 3 hours in length.
Clinton originally started as teen in Doo-Wop groups, then Soul, with his first recording being released in 1967 with the moniker The Parliaments. Over the years, he not only was able to ride with changing tastes in Black music, he and the collective also drew on Heavy Rock, Psychedelic Soul, Pop, Gospel, Acoustic, Hard R&B, Electronic Music, and even simultaneously disco and anti-disco to create a heady type of Funk music.
Their sound changed over the course of the 1970’s, from psychedelic soul to Funk and finally gaining commercial acceptance in 1976 with Mothership Connection. However, it was Parliament, not Funkadelic, that brought the group initial mainstream notice. The resulting tour for that album, featuring financial backing from Parliament’s indie label Casablanca and utilizing Aerosmith’s sound system, made them huge stars. Yes, you heard that correctly: the band was signed, at one time, to two different independent labels simultaneously.
Hindering Funkadelic wasn’t just that they were on an indie label: Songs with language that would not be played on commercial radio, subject matter considered taboo even by today’s standards, lengthy album tracks that were too long for pop-oriented radio, a sound that would even make the most “progressive” heavy rock acts look tame by comparison and controversial cover art that many stores refused to stock all kept them out of the limelight. The period we cover here features only the Funkadelic recordings on Westbound from 1969 through 1976. You can hear the influence of the more groove oriented Parliament starting to creep in, and by 1978, the two were practically indistinguishable.
Along the way, the collective stressed many things: Afrofuturism, science, humor, community, empowerment and personal freedom were just some of themes that not only struck a chord with many Black youth of the day, they continue to be one of the most highly regarded and sampled artists in history. It is rumored that Clinton’s current tour may be his last one ever, bringing a close to what was possibly the most exciting and wildly original Black band to ever emerge from the United States.
- Get Off Your Ass and Jam, 1975, Let’s Take It To The Stage
- Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow, 1970, Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow
- Standing on the Verge of Getting It On, 1974, Standing on the Verge of Getting It On
- I’ll Bet You (album version), 1970, Funkadelic
- Loose Booty, 1972, America Eats Its Young
- Open Our Eyes, 1969, originally the B-side to “I’ll Bet You”, then withdrawn
- Cosmic Slop, 1973, Cosmic Slop
- Take Your Dead Ass Home, 1976, Tales of Kidd Funkadelic
- Maggot Brain, 1971, Maggot Brain
Love to you all.
Ben “Daddy Ben Bear” Brown Jr.
Host, Producer, Webmaster, Audio Engineer, Researcher and Writer
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