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The 100 Greatest American Rock ‘n’ Roll Bands #3: Parliament/Funkadelic

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George Clinton first performed in a doo wop group named The Parliaments in the 1950s and scored a Top 20 pop hit with “(I Wanna) Testify” in 1967. In 1970, Clinton formed two bands – Parliament and Funkadelic. Parliament started as a psychedelic soul outfit before becoming a behemoth funk act. Funkadelic brought post-Hendrix hard rock guitar into the realm of R&B music. During the early 1970s, Clinton focused his energies on Funkadelic and while today’s music fans might be familiar with “Maggot Brain,” “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow,” and “Cosmic Slop,” Clinton wasn’t tearing up the charts. The 1974 Parliament album Up for the Down Stroke included the return of bassist Bootsy Collins and the title track went Top Ten on the R&B charts. Highlights of Funkadelic’s 1975 Let’s Take It to the Stage include the much sampled title track and the party chant, “Get Off Your Ass and Jam.” The racist nightmare “Chocolate City” was another R&B hit for Parliament in 1975, but the breakthrough came with the platinum album Mothership Connection. “P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)” was one of the great party tracks of the decade and “Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk)” broke Top 40. One of pop music’s weirdest looking and sounding collectives were now shocking the masses.

Parliament released six successive gold or platinum albums in the 1970s and became known for their large scale stage shows. The band had their second pop hit with “Flash Light” in 1978 and topped the R&B charts with “Aqua Boogie.” During the same timeframe, Funkadelic went Top 40 with “One Nation Under a Groove” and that anthem as well as “(Not Just) Knee Deep” went #1 R&B. Bootsy Collins then recorded as another spin-off act and Bootsy’s Rubber Band scored major R&B hits with “The Pinocchio Theory” and “Bootzilla.” P-Funk’s music was funky, funny, shocking, and original. The bands were also making music at a torrid pace. The P-Funk collective took a major commercial downturn after 1980, although Clinton did score the #1 R&B hit “Atomic Dog” in 1982. Clinton has never stopped touring or releasing albums, although he looks much more conservative today than he did in multi-hued dreadlocks. P-Funk has had a monumental impact on hip hop music and Bernie Worrell’s creative synthesizer playing served as an influence in new wave and techno music (after leaving P-Funk, Worrell spent some time playing with The Talking Heads). In the P-Funk universe, the drugs flow continuously, the dancing never stops, and Saturday night never ends.

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