BOOK REVIEW | "BROTHERS BE, YO LIKE GEORGE AIN'T THAT FUNKIN' KINDA HARD ON YOU?" BY GEORGE CLINTON & BEN GREENMAN
photo & text by nacrowe
seriously, was there ever any doubt that a memoir by the visionary behind FUNK icon GEORGE CLINTON of PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC was going to be anything else but amazing?
worry not because BROTHERS BE, YO LIKE GEORGE AIN'T THAT FUNKIN' KINDA HARD ON YOU? (SIMON & SCHUSTER, 2014) definitely delivers the goods and is required reading for anyone interested in music. any era, any genre. period. i mean, PRINCE even referred to him as "the father of this funk mothership." so get on board.
in many ways it reads like a history of the evolution of FUNK music, from GOSPEL and DOO-WOP, MO-TOWN and SOUL / R&B to JAZZ and BLUES-based BRITISH INVASION bands to PSYCHEDELIA and later FUNK and beyond. you really get a deep sense of CLINTON's appreciation for not only the power an brilliance of songwriters but also the performative nature of music. that instinctual ritual of connection between an audience and a deep groove. it was that sensibility that allowed him to sense when culture was shifting, which in the late 1960s was definitely the case, and ingeniously position his group PARLIAMENT between R&B and the PSYCHEDELIC BLUES-based rock bands of that era. for a band that never veered to much into political concerns outside of pro-free thought anthems like FREE YOUR MIND AND YOUR ASS WILL FOLLOW, it could be argued their very presence as a musically ferocious freight train of BLACK MUSICIANS was inherently political during that era. such allowed them to play both the underground CHITLIN CIRCUIT and white college towns concurrently across the country.
there is so much to unpack in this book that i could write forever about it, but here are some quick thoughts in no particular order:
1. the fact that CLINTON utilized his HENDRIX-inspired out there space imagery as a way of using personas (in a very MAYNARD JAMES KEENAN-esque manner) to sidestep being pigeon-hold stylistically, politically and in terms of radio programming. it allowed him ironically to keep the focus on the music and maintain his personal identity separate from his stage personas.
2. most of the generations of players (such as EDDIE HAZEL, BOOTSY COLLINS & BERNIE WORRELL) in both groups were from the NEWARK and PLAINFIELD communities in NEW JERSEY area where CLINTON grew up and had owned a hair salon
3. the idea that having multiple bands on different labels extended the buy-in from the record industry into the PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC operation. essentially the WU-TANG CLAN model decades before WU-TANG CLAN.
4. the idea that he used MOTOWN RECORDS as a model for franchising out the PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC extended family of associated acts insured he had constant product to keep the brand out there.
5. CLINTON's opinion that the EAST COAST HIP HOP groups did a better job of utilizing PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC samples in creating new juxtapositions than their WEST COAST peers, whom CLINTON felt used the material wholesale with little to no imagination.
6. the idea that keeping your ears open to new concepts from the youth is a way of renewing your interest in music and combat jadedness is a must. throughout his career to the present CLINTON has sought out musicians, producers and collaborators that have challenged and enriched his work and it was a deliberate choice on his part. it kept his music fresh.
this is easily one of the most enjoyable memoirs that i've come across since starting this blog and highly recommend it to anyone interested in music from the last half-century. CLINTON is a deliberate, steady voice that cuts through the mix and gives a fair assessment of his failures and achievements, warts and all. his memoir is required reading.