Happy Funkin’ Birthday

Friday July 22nd, 2011 – Cary, IL

Today is George “Dr. Funkenstein” Clinton’s 70th birthday. Or maybe it’s 71. I’ve seen his birth year listed as either 1940 or 1941 for years, and I have no idea which is the right one. But with a super cool nickname like “Dr. Funkenstein”, does an exact year matter?

Anyone who knows me well knows I’m a huge fan of his for many reasons. I really like the music, but it’s more than that. He’s not only a master showman himself, he’s also able to bring out the very best in the musicians he works with. On top of that, he’s able to melt all of their individual talents together and oversee the chaos on stage during live shows.

He’s also the one who came up with most of the wild concepts that put them over in the ’70s, most notably the infamous space ship gimmick that landed in the arenas they played then. I never got to see one of those shows live, but always wanted to. I didn’t see George in person until the late 80s, right when he was starting to put together his comeback run.

There were all kinds of lawsuits going on at that time, and the band names ‘Parliament’ and ‘Funkadelic’ were tied up in court so the show was billed as “George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars“. It was basically the same members of both groups, and the first time I saw them live I was hooked. It was a four hour show at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago.

There were no spaceships landing, but the musicianship was from another planet. There were more people on stage than I could count, and they were all dressed in costumes from a sheik to a cowboy to a guy in a wedding dress. I’ve seen some shows in my day, but I’m always going to be biased toward the P-Funk. They grabbed my attention and still have it.

While the band is full of supremely talented players, it’s George that keeps it going as a collective touring and recording entity, and I have no idea how he’s done it for as long as he has. I’m not even 50 and I’m growing weary of the road as a single act. He’s at least 70 and still out there hitting it hard with several dozen people on stage to have to manage.

That gets my respect right there. I don’t know how he does it, but I’m glad he did it for as long as he has because it brought me and millions of others fantastic entertainment for decades. To me, that’s a life very well spent. I want to do the same with any talent I have.

It’s time for me to get back out there and make something happen with what I’m doing. I want to be the comedy version of George Clinton in that I surround myself with talented performers and let them do what they do. I know I can fill a similar role as George and be the coordinator and overseer to shape a sellable product out of what seems like anarchy.

I’ve got all these projects on hold like producing James Wesley Jackson’s DVD and the potential tour with my friends Don Reese, Dwight York and Dan Still. I also want to keep teaching comedy classes and also develop my King of Uranus gimmick. If George can do it and do it well for as long as he has, I think I need to give what I’m doing my full energy and not give up. Hopefully someone will write about my successes when I turn 70. Or 71.


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