Uncle Jam’s funkadactic crusade continues in a book that, though less rollicking than a fan might expect, still kicks it.
“When I’m asked about something serious, I try to make jokes because deep down, I know that I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about.” Thus says Clinton, the mastermind behind Parliament/Funkadelic, aka P-Funk, and the author of such classics as “Maggot Brain” and “The Electric Spanking of War Babies.” It’s not exactly Socrates’ “I know only that I know nothing,” but Clinton is a born, if rough-speaking, philosopher, as when he allows that, though he’s not so inclined, he never minded playing with gay musicians: “I don’t give a fuck who he’s fucking. Can he drum?” Clinton, with a helpful hand from pop ghost Greenman (co-author of Questlove’s Mo’ Meta Blues, 2013), recounts coming up on gritty East Coast streets, where, in between working as a barber, he engaged in various felonious acts while seeking fame on the Motown funway. That changed with his “introduction to three important letters: L-S-D,” along with the recruitment of players such as Eddie Hazel and later William “Bootsy” Collins, who took R&B, mixed it with rock, turned it into funk, and then took the whole enterprise into outer space. (Clinton opens with an anecdote in which Mylar space suits figure prominently.) Sadly—but fittingly, as it turns out—Clinton’s tale begins to limp halfway in, as acid-funk glory slowly begins to erode in the face of one lawsuit after another. He closes in the glow of a comfortable semiretirement tinged with a hint of sadness: “Kids today don’t know the difference between me and Snoop Dogg, or me and Stevie Wonder. Everybody who’s old is old.”
Though sometimes too slow and a touch, well, normal, Clinton’s memoir proves a treat for the many who love his work.