Parliament-Funkadelic, also called P-Funk, a massive group of performers that greatly influenced black music in the 1970s. The original members were George Clinton (b. July 22, 1941, Kannapolis, N.C., U.S.), Raymond Davis (b. March 29, 1940, Sumter, S.C.), Calvin Simon (b. May 22, 1942, Beckley, W.Va.), Fuzzy Haskins (byname of Clarence Haskins; b. June 8, 1941, Elkhorn, W.Va.), and Grady Thomas (b. Jan. 5, 1941, Newark, N.J.). Later members included Michael Hampton (b. Nov. 15, 1956, Cleveland, Ohio), Bernie Worrell (b. April 19, 1944, Long Beach, N.J.—d. June 24, 2016, Everson, Wash.), Billy Bass Nelson (byname of William Nelson, Jr.; b. Jan. 28, 1951, Plainfield, N.J.), Eddie Hazel (b. April 10, 1950, Brooklyn, N.Y.—d. Dec. 23, 1992), Tiki Fulwood (byname of Ramon Fulwood; b. May 23, 1944, Philadelphia, Pa.—d. Oct. 29, 1979), Bootsy Collins (byname of William Collins; b. Oct. 26, 1951, Cincinnati, Ohio), Fred Wesley (b. July 4, 1943, Columbus, Ga.), Maceo Parker (b. Feb. 14, 1943, Kinston, N.C.), Jerome Brailey (b. Aug. 20, 1950, Richmond, Va.), Garry Shider (b. July 24, 1953, Plainfield—d. June 16, 2010, Upper Marlboro, Md.), Glen Goins (b. Jan. 2, 1954, Plainfield—d. July 29, 1978, Plainfield), and Gary (“Mudbone”) Cooper (b. Nov. 24, 1953, Washington, D.C.). The group scored 13 Top Ten rhythm-and-blues and pop hits from 1967 to 1983 (including six number one rhythm-and-blues hits) under a variety of names, including the Parliaments, Funkadelic, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, and the Brides of Funkenstein, as well as under the name of its founding father, Clinton.
The band combined the hard rock of Jimi Hendrix, the funky rhythms of James Brown, and the showstopping style of Sly and the Family Stone to fashion an outrageous tribal funk experience. P-Funk emphasized the aesthetics of funk as a means of self-fulfillment; to “give up the funk” meant to achieve transcendence.
Organized and produced by Clinton, the original Parliaments began as a doo-wop quintet based in Plainfield. The group’s first charting single, “(I Wanna) Testify,” in 1967 led to their first tour, but legal problems that arose with the demise of their record company resulted in the loss of the group’s name. Performing throughout the northeastern United States and recording in Detroit, the group began to emphasize its backing band, Funkadelic. Led by bassist Nelson, guitarist Hazel, drummer Fulwood, and classically trained keyboardist Worrell, Funkadelic incorporated the influence of amplified, psychedelic rock into its distinctive sound.
By 1970 Clinton was producing albums for both the renamed Parliament and Funkadelic—essentially the same entity recording for different labels. In the process, he recruited key new performers: Collins on bass, Wesley on trombone, and Parker on saxophone (all from James Brown’s band the JBs), along with drummer Brailey, vocalist Cooper, lead guitarist Hampton, and vocalist-guitarists Shider and Goins. Success came in 1976 with the release of Parliament’s album Mothership Connection and the single “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker),” which earned a gold record. Other hit singles followed, including “Flash Light” (1977) by Parliament, “One Nation Under a Groove” (1978) by Funkadelic, and “Atomic Dog” (1982) by Clinton.
P-Funk reached its peak in the late 1970s, sporting a massive stage act (with more than 40 performers) that showcased Clinton’s visionary album concepts, Collins’s spectacular bass effects, and Worrell’s synthesizer innovations. However, by the early 1980s, the large overhead and multifaceted legal identity of the group led to a collapse of the enterprise.
P-Funk defined the dance music of its time and influenced a range of styles from hard rock to house music. The P-Funk catalog is among the most sampled by rap music producers. Parliament-Funkadelic was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.