Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Golden Years of The Funk

Many of us funk fans have been giving our thoughts and prayers out to Garry Shider and the entire George Clinton family of funk. And his determination to continue on stage even after his diagnosis with brain and liver cancer is all the more inspiring and distressing at the same time. It has been especially hard for our super-hero --and for many of us, dear friend --George Clinton because he lost his mother, and son Georgie over the past few months, as well as everyone’s best friend in the funk, the one and only Mallia Franklin, who also passed earlier this year.

George and his son Georgie

That is a lot of loss for one person to take, regardless if they are the indestructible, indomitable Dr. Funkenstein.

I think it is ironic, yet emblematic of The Funk that despite these very real losses and setbacks, the touring P-Funk show over the past couple of years has been the strongest it has been in about a decade. P-Funk is of course hard to measure because there are no comparisons, except to other P-Funk jam sessions, but the new blood, the new guitarists, the new drummers, the new singers, the new keyboardist Danny Bedrosian all are holding up the banner very well. Many of the folks aren’t ‘new’ exactly, but they are fully formed entities in the act, and there are no down spots anywhere in the show, except when one steps back and wonders how long it will continue.

It has become possible now to imagine P-Funk even after the Clinton era is over. This is not really conceivable for me, considering I figured the good doctor would live to be 205. But if he were to retire at this point, no one could possibly blame him, (except for maybe a few creditors) and a few bandmembers that might selfishly want to keep the gravy train going.

But The Funk Mob as we know it is easily 40 years into it now, and I’m only talking about the touring psychedelic monstrosity that was and is Parliament-Funkadelic / P-Funk All Stars that began its road assault as a black rock funk soul band on the road around 1970. That is quite a long time for anyone to be doing anything, even something they love, that is in their bloodstream, and will be in their dust once it scatters.

So I’m looking forward, cause funk ain’t never looking back, it’s always comin’, and I will consider it a blessing that we still get so many legendary funkmasters still cranking at the highest level. Ain’t nothing like it. Ever.

Just talking about the funk stars themselves only tells part of the generational story. I’ve been doing radio – funked up radio – since 1983, and I think I’ve been doing a weekly radio show just about every week since 1985. That is a LOT of funk. And some shows are still on an advanced level of groovallegiance, which is a joy to be a part of. But there are days and times when I’m looking at winding this up too.

I have been at KPFA radio since 1991, and have been on the same Friday night slot since 1997 doing “The History of Funk.” It is what I always wanted to do, so I ain’t never gonna complain about it. But my homie and co-host The Funkyman, has had his own overnight show at KPFA for about ten years, and he just “retired” from it, announcing it last Friday on my show. He simply needed to get back to his life and quit trying to sustain the funkativity of his fans at his own expense. Another friend and colleague of mine, Gary “The G-Spot” Baca, had been on KPFA for around 20 years, and basically burned out this year too. His great overnight Saturday night/Sunday morning show “Live From Aztlan” was a fantastic trip through funk and soul, and G was and still is one of the best interviewers in the Bay Area I’ve ever heard. KPFA management removed him earlier this year from his show, and just like that a radio legend is blowing in the wind.

RV and The Funkyman

Dang, so now I’m hanging on with this funk, watching generations pass, waiting for the revolution to come that The Funk promised us, embedded so deep into our soul. I must now conclude that may never happen, but as George Clinton always says, ‘funk aint about getting there, it is about the pursuit’ And I guess we are all in pursuit of the funk, till the edge of time…