Photo: William Thoren Photography
George Clinton is a national treasure -- an artist who changed the sound of music and the way we danced. Simultaneously leading two legendary bands with completely different styles throughout the '70s, Parliament and Funkadelic, Clinton is the only one out of the three gods of funk left standing. James Brown is dead, and Sly Stone is in self-exile. We are lucky to have him, and should be thankful he's still doing his thing. At 72, the now clean-and-sober Dr. Funkenstein is appearing with his P-Funk All Stars at Yoshi's Oakland for three shows this week, from Wednesday, March 27, through Friday, March 29. We recently spoke to him to see what he's bringing to the Bay.
So you're doing this stint at Yoshi's in Oakland.
Oh man, I love Oakland and the Bay Area for days! My best friend Sly Stone is from there. We've been best friends for a long time. You know, since '60-'70, since we first came out together. And the Oakland Coliseum is where we recorded our P-Funk Earth Tour live album in '77. A lot of spaced-out cats in Oakland, San Francisco, Richmond.
Like Sun Ra! Did you ever know him?
We met a few times, and hung out a few years before he died. We were supposed to make some music together combining our groups. I saw his movie Space Is the Place a few times.
That was filmed in Oakland!
I didn't know that. That's cool.
During Bootsy Collins' last show at the Independent, he alluded to you two doing a tour this year.
Yeah, we are in the middle of working that out, getting the right promoters and all the right people involved. We are going to do it right. We are getting Bernie (Worrell), Maceo (Parker), Fred (Wesley), etc. You know we need everybody. The whole thing. It wasn't just me, Bootsy, and Bernie. There were a whole lot of us and I really want us to do it. It won't work without everybody. The fans know us as characters.
Like Mickey and Pluto?
Yeah, exactly. We are just waiting for the right financiers. Like when The Who came back, they came back and ruled the arenas. We need someone that will take it to that level and promote us like that.
There was some video of Bootsy and yourself on stage recently and it was really sweet. You two were embracing.
Yeah! We always see him and it's always like that! It's a huge misconception that we don't get along. Just because a lot of business stuff got in our way. Us playing together is one thing and the business stuff is another, completely different animal.
And what of Bernie?
Bernie is the sweetest boy in the world. I can't really speak for him right now, but I know in my heart he will do it.
You've recently changed your look from the colorful dreads and the muumuus to a slick suit and short, cropped hair. It's kind of shocking to your longtime fans.
You have to change all the time. You have to reinvent yourself. All I did this time was bring it back to the original look of The Parliaments singing group from the early '60s. We were cool back then on the boardwalk of New Jersey. That was the 'hood for us. The tailor-made suits and the slick hair. I'm just bringing that back.
Do you miss your dreads at all?
All my hair is gone anyway! I'm 72!
You've been doing more deep cuts and not just the hits. A lot of Funkadelic material.
Yeah, we've been adding a lot of that stuff lately. It's finally been long enough that it's finally brand new again.
At 72 you seem more present on stage now. You are leading the band the whole show and you're singing more than you ever have in the past decade.
Well, I'd say that I've had a lot of rest and stopped doing a lot of things. I just focus on the band now. I've been clean for two years, so all this music shit is easy now!
510 Embarcadero W., Oakland, CA