Friday, February 6, 2009

One: One Nation Under A Groove

Funkadelic: One Nation Under a Groove


I have a secret. I’ve posted folk and blues ever since I got here. I lapse into occasional bouts of 80s music, including ska. I am the resident world music maven. But, what nobody knew until now is that I harbor a deep love of 70s funk.

There is no better way to make this confession than to introduce you to the strange world of George Clinton. In the 70s, George Clinton wanted as much freedom as a musician could have, and still be under contract. For this reason, he created the groups Funkadelic and Parliament. There were also offshoots: Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Parlet, The Brides of Funkenstein, Fred Wesley and the Horny Horns, to name a few. These were all the same group of core musicians. The offshoots highlighted musicians or sections within the larger whole. The trick was that each incarnation had its own recording contract, allowing Clinton to play the labels off each other, and record for whoever was giving him what he wanted at that moment.

What made it all work though was the quality of the music. George Clinton created funk that kept you moving, while at the same time expanding the language of funk, by incorporating rock guitars, jazz harmonies, and the different musical textures that were possible with the large ensemble of talented musicians Clinton relied upon. Even when it didn’t work, the failures were glorious ones.

Clinton’s bands were never the most popular, even at their peak. But his influence is undeniable. One of Clinton’s most obvious musical descendants is Prince, and Clinton’s tracks were constantly sampled by early hip-hop artists. But it is best to start with the original music. And One Nation Under a Groove is a fine example.

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