Funkadelic: 13 Inspiring Black Artists of Rock
The lineage of Funkadelic began in the fifties when George Clinton and four Jersey friends create a doo-wop soul group called the Parliaments. The 1960s see them record for various small labels while George is commuting to Detroit to work with Motown. In 1967, after signing a deal with the Revilot label, the Parliaments finally had their first hit “(I Wanna) Testify,” a recording that only George appears on due to the other members being unable to make the session. Session studio artists filled in for the band.
The next year Revilot went under, and the group’s name became tied up in litigation. The did not want to wait for a resolution, so Clinton combines the Parliaments with their unnamed backing band to form Funkadelic. The grouup’s music and dress reflect the hippie counter-culture of the day. They also relate to their expression of peace, freedom of sex, race, and gender while participating heavily in the drug culture. They quickly move away from the original Parliaments soul-based music blending it with R&B, rock, and psychedelic rhythms. Funkadelic found inspiration in revolutionary artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, and Sly Stone. Their guitarist Eddie Hazel studied Jimi Hendrix’s control of distortion and feedback while searching for the bands’ unique beats and pulsing rhythms.
While living in Detroit, the band would often be on the same bill as the Stooges, MC 5 and Vanilla Fudge. Funkadelic often changed their music from show to show as they were experimenting with influences and sounds. Clinton credits the rock band Vanilla Fudge for inspiring their music. George was looking for a wall of sound, and during a show with Vanilla Fudge, Funkadelic’s equipment truck wrecks while driving to the venue, leaving the band with nothing to play during the show. Unexpectedly, Vanilla Fudge loans their gear. Funkadelic is amazed at their state of the art equipment. Clinton realizes it is what gives the band their big psychedelic sound. Soon, he gets his wall of sound by adding massive amplifiers to their act. As time progresses, the groups’ style develops into a tighter, heavier guitar-based funk.
In 1972, the Clinton won his suit with Revilot. George then drops the ‘s’ to create Parliment. He mixes and matches artists into both Parliment and Funkadelic. Soon both bands with the same musicians are recording independently on two different labels. Parliment targets a more soulful deep bass groove with out-of-the-box sound effects. Funkadelic cultivates a funk-rock sound. The Funkadelic become the godfathers of the funk-rock genre. They are also one the greatest jam bands of all time. Funkadelic is known for playing 3-5 hours a show, depending on how much fun everyone is having. The video of Maggot Brain shows their talent for rock guitars and amazing jam sessions.
Clinton is the mastermind behind two wildly creative musical entities full of amazing parts. They were breaking ground in separate musical paths. Eventually, his pool of talented artists become know as Parliment-Funkadelic. Their shows were enormous spectacles of sound, characters, and voice working around props like the bop gun and the mothership that would land bringing Clinton to the stage. The two groups continue to record independently. As the 70s progressed and the Parliment-Funkadelic reaches the pinnacle of their success, Funkadelic adds elements of R&B and electronic music, with fewer psychedelic rock elements. Although their height ended in the early eighties, funkadelic went on to inspire future funk-rock, and alternative rock bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Talking Heads, and Phish. And such artists as the Gap Band, Ice Cube, De La Soul, Digital Underground and Public Enemy heavily sample their music. Even Prince’s extended guitar jams is an extension of the Funkadelic sound.