The legendarily larger than life sci-fi-funk maestro George Clinton is retiring from touring, and to say goodbye, he’s brought his group, Parliament Funkadelic, out on the road this summer for one last victory lap.
You’d think an artist active since the mid-1950s, one whose work has had such an amazing influence on over half a century of popular music — from rock ‘n’ roll and pop, to hip hop, soul and R&B — would have, at this point, done and seen just about everything.
When I ask Clinton if there’s anything in particular he’s looking forward to about having more free time, I expect an answer along the lines of, “I plan to build a rocket ship fueled on positive vibes to colonize Mars with all the funky people.”
Instead, Clinton, 78, plans to fish.
“I fish everywhere!” he says. “In the ocean, the lakes, the rivers.” It’s such a classic, grandfatherly response that it puts a smile on my face, but making people smile is just what Clinton does best.
While Clinton is retiring from life as a performer, he isn’t giving up music altogether. “I’ll probably do recording. I’ll do a lot of cartoon music,” he says. Rest assured, we haven’t heard the last from Clinton.
“Where I’m at now is a real good place,” he says. “It’s a real good place. It’s a combination of the things I’ve been through”
This iteration of Parliament is a family affair.
“I got great-grandkids in the band,” he says. “All of that I’m pretty proud of.”
From his vantage point, are there any artists active today keep Clinton hopeful for the future?
“There’s a lot of fresh music that’s still being created,” he says. “Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Anderson .Paak, all the trap music out of Atlanta, Cardi B — all that crew. That gives me hope.”
Clinton’s earliest musical memories are of his mother listening to Louis Jordan. His first favorite song was Frankie Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” and another early influence on Clinton was the music of Motown.
“I pretty much studied all the different producers and writers there. Smokey Robinson was my hero. Funkadelic was our version of Motown, if they stayed in Detroit.”
Does Clinton have any words of advice for his younger self? What would George, now, say to George, then?
“Don’t believe the hype. That’s in everything: the fun, the drugs, the partying, the hit records. All of it is hype,” he says.
He’s still proud to stand by his list of accomplishments. “I feel good about what I did and the way I did it. I wouldn’t change it,” he says.
We live in uncertain times. More than ever, we need some sage advice from an artist that popularized useful bon mots such as, “Free your mind, and your ass will follow.”
Does Clinton have any parting words for those struggling to stay positive?
“Remember: It ain’t illegal yet,” he says.
Don’t miss the funkiest retirement party ever when George Clinton plays alongside Fishbone, Dumpstaphunk, and Miss Velvet and the Blue Wolf, 6 pm Sunday, Aug. 11, at Cuthbert Amphitheater; $42 advance, $48 door, all-ages.