George Clinton remembers backup singer Belita Woods, recalls Paisley Park era
By Bobby Kahn
George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic need no introduction -- especially in a city as funky as Minneapolis. Their huge influence can be heard across many genres of music today and even at the age of 70, George and his band tour harder and longer than many of the much younger bands that sample their songs.
Gimme Noise was set to check in with George and see what has kept him going through all these years, but the interview was delayed for a very tragic reason -- an off-and-on collaborator and backup singer in the band, Belita Woods, passed away a few hours before the interview was originally set to take place on May 14.
Update: George toasts another departed friend, old labelmate Donna Summer here.
We connected with George the next day and talked about what Woods meant to the band, his new look, and his connections to Minneapolis. Check out his answers below.
Gimme Noise: First off, I'm very sorry for the loss in your group. Do you have any favorite memories of Belita Woods that stick out?
George Clinton: Forever Belita has had a beautiful voice and she has been with us since the 80s. She's going to be missed very much. I can't say enough about how much she meant to the group.
GN: How did you link up with Belita originally?
GC: We played in Detroit, the first time in 1969, she was on the show with us. The show was called Emancipation and she was on that show in 1969. We had "I Wanna Testify" [The band's first hit single from 1967] and she had a record out at the same time, and off and on she performed with us on our records from about '70 to '80. She came on the road with us in, like, '91.
GN: I saw a photo of you from a recent concert in which you were wearing a suit and had cut your hair. What brought on the changes, are you going for a throwback to the old days?
Just changed it up again. Always change it up every 20 years. Nobody remembers us looking like that.
GN: Can fans at the show on Saturday expect to hear any old songs from back in the Parliament days?
GC: Yes, quite a bit, we've been doing songs from the '60s on the shows lately and people are actually loving it! A lot of the '60s stuff. "The Goose (That Laid The Golden Egg)," "I Got A Thing, You Got A Thing," "You and Your Folks." Quite a few songs we did from back then.
GN: So you vary it up, you give them a wide range of eras in the show?
GC: Yes, we do everything, cause we'll be on stage for 3 hours or so. We do all kinds of stuff! We got my granddaughter, grandson, and my son, and you know, they're into hip-hop, so we got quite a bit of that in there.
GN: You and your band tour pretty relentlessly, what keeps you guys going?
The Funk!! Funk has Viagra in it! GN: What would you say is the state of funk in 2012?
GC: Well you know, funk today is the thing today for hip-hop, so it's in very good shape in 2012.
GN: Minneapolis has a reputation as a funky city. Do you or your band have any ties to Minneapolis?
GC: Hell yes! You know I was on Paisley Park? I was out there with Prince from, um, '88 to '94 or '95, I was with Paisley Park. We played First Avenue, Glam Slam, and quite a few other places. Lots of good memories in Minneapolis doing the shows, filming Graffiti Bridge, and going back and forth to record there. The Cinderella Theory and Hey Man, Smell My Finger were both recorded at Paisley Park.
GN: Do you have any parting words to let fans know what they can expect at the show on Saturday?
GC: It's gonna be like this: I promise to funk and promise to keep it fun, you keep the funk!
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. 7 p.m. Saturday, May 19 at the Brick. Click here.
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