FUNK GOD-AND WOULD YOU BELIEVE HE'S COLOR-BLIND?
In the ’50s and ’60s he was a barber in Newark, the town he grew up in, and he has always taken the barbershop approach in music: ”That’s where I got my real education,” says George Clinton, ”talking to all kinds of people, learning how to talk to them in their own slang.” One look at Clinton-he of the rainbow-colored hair extensions-and you know his barbershop days are over. But he’s still a master at turning street slang and pimp jive into musical dialogue. At 52, he’s also a veritable sage to up- and-coming talent who hang on his every groove. Best summed up by his own bit of 1970 wisdom-”Free your mind and your ass will follow” (an idea since co-opted by En Vogue)-Clinton has been worshiped, copied, and sampled by a generation of hip-hop, new jack swing, and thrash-funk artists. The Red Hot Chili Peppers went so far as to ask Clinton and his P-Funk All-Stars to back them at the Grammys in March, only to find themselves seriously upstaged. ”Those are my boys,” rasps Clinton, who produced the Peppers’ second album, Freakey Styley, and is planning to tour with them later this year. ”I taught them their most valuable lesson: Never fear, just charge on forward. Don’t be like all those Muppets.” Never a problem for Clinton. Ever since forming the original Parliament- Funkadelic back in 1970 (with late, great guitarist Eddie Hazel and bassist Bootsy Collins), Clinton has been pushing funk’s boundaries with one badass masterpiece after another, from Mothership Connection to One Nation Under a Groove to Brides of Funkenstein. And P-Funk’s live ”Mothership” shows of the ’70s were million-dollar freak extravaganzas, complete with spaceships. ”Where’s the last place you’d expect to see a black man?” he asks. ”In outer space. We took you there.” And he’s itching to do it again. ”We have a lot of new fans and funk is bigger than ever,” says Clinton, who has been touring for 18 months to raise money for more ”Mothership” gigs. Additional fuel for new and old fans is Clinton’s upcoming album, scheduled for release in September on Prince’s Paisley Park label. ”Bootsy and the Horny Horns are on it, but I have a few more tracks to do. I want to get the cats who’ve sampled me on it, like Del the Funky Homosapien and Ice Cube,” he says. Back from Washington, D.C., where he received a Lifetime Achievement award from Black Radio Exclusive magazine, Clinton took a break at his Michigan ranch, where he lives with his second wife, Stephanie, more than 2,500 psychedelic stuffed animals, and no phone. His son Trey Lewd, a rapper with his own album on Warner Bros., will accompany Dad when he resumes touring. As ) for the rest of his clan, Clinton says: ”There are more kids claiming to be mine than you can think of. But I tell them, ‘Didn’t you know? I’m the father of this country.”’