Symphony of Funk for George Clinton’s 50th Anniversary

In OUR lifetime we have the distinct honor and privilege of experiencing George Clinton.  Think about how P-Funk shaped how we see, hear and live music today – and I don’t see many having such an impact now.  George Clinton brings revolution every time he steps into a studio or on a stage – whenever he enters a room.

I remember back in 1990 when I worked for Warner Chappell in Los Angeles, George was lost in the building trying to find the president’s office.  He dipped around a wall and found me sitting in my seat working away, unassuming…until I looked up and realized George Clinton was standing before me.  Of course I couldn’t jock, so in a quick second I composed myself on the outside, smiled and asked, “How you doin?”  He stood in silence for what seemed like a half hour, just looking at me.  He said, “I like your smile.”   I nearly passed out.  It was one of those times when I came face-to-face with a hero.  He touched my life for a brief second, and I was never the same, and I never forgot it.  And all the music that I already worshiped became that much more meaningful.

If  you were at George Clinton’s 50 year celebration at the Apollo Theater on October 25th, you understand why I can’t begin to list the names of all the legends who attended this historic occasion.  This was a Stat! for NYC Public Hospitals event.  There was so much greatness in this room – Bootsy Collins, Doug E. Fresh, Nona Hendrix, Tye Tribbett, Kim Burrell, Rubber Band, ?uestlove, event music director Ray Chew, Bernie Worrell, Paul Shaffer, Sheila E, Fab 5 Freddy, Full Force, Dr. Cornell West,  just to name a few.  I was surprised to find out that there was barely any coverage of this momentous event.

The Roots’ ?uestlove rocked Knee Deep along with Paul Schaefer on vocals and keys, and paid tribute to P-Funk guitarist Garry Shider, who passed in 2010.  In fact, throughout the night, respect and acknowledgement was given to all those band members who have transitioned.   Sheila E commanded the stage with We Want the Funk.  Kim Burrell joined the band with Let Me Ride.  Vernon Reed did an impressive Maggot Brain.  Bernie Worrell began his spot with a fitting 3 1/2 minute symphonic interlude on synth, then the room exploded with Flashlight.  Bootsy Collins, who also happened to be celebrating his birthday, gave us everything you would imagine, despite his rig failing – at one point he was stepping through the audience as if walking on water.  One of my favorite moments was near the end when Dr. Cornell West got DOWN on that stage next to Bootsy to One Nation Under a Groove.  George stepped out on stage and, among the pandemonium of righteous celebration, Bootsy gave him a big hug and summed up not only the night, but the entire movement in a state of gratitude after receiving his birthday cake:  “George always told us back in the day – we didn’t really understand at the time-   Funk is its own reward.”  He then, with full understanding, offered his mentor Dr. Funkenstein an emotional embrace, while the crowd in a state of appropriate delirium cheered.  History made and celebrated….in OUR lifetime.

INto Harlem


*Photo courtesy of Ahmad Armando Quazi  ( )

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