Greetings on this ‘Wayback Wednesday’. As we are 2 days away from the end of the month and 1 day away from receiving the next Dec 18 & Jan 19 issue of The Soul Survivors Magazine, sharing this now seems appropriate. It is dedicated to Mr Jazzifunk George Power who was instrumental in many ways of purveying the jazz, funk, boogie, fusion and soul music to many. I personally refrained from sharing my thoughts about George previously as it seemed more fitting to share universally it in our publication. To those who contributed their own words of wisdom, I thank you sincerely for taking the time to contribute. It features eulogies from just a few who felt the need to share George’s impact, as well as the usual news reviews and interviews with W. Michael Lewis (El Coco & Le Pamplemousse), Rockie Robbins and A.D. Burrise of 9th Creation. As our annual festive seasonal issue it is a riveting read, including an exemplary piece of articulacy in the Roll Call Of Fame from Akin Shenbanjo Jr on Jerry Gonzales, so to make sure you get your make sure you subscribe via https://www.thesoulsurvivorsmagazine.co.uk/membership/
Born in 1961 tell us about growing up and what inspired you musically and your aspirations in being an athlete?
I grew up in Brooklyn New York and my dad was a minister, so that is how I started performing in front of an audience . I always love to run track as well, so both music and athletics were a big part of my life. I didn’t actually compete until I was in high school and I ran 20.8 seconds in a 200 yard dash when I was 16 years old. From that point I qualified for the 1984 Olympic Games but I didn’t go because I hurt my knee in a car accident when I performed in Brazil. I also studied at a design school because I was going to be an illustrator.
Who influenced you musically before you got your first record deal?
I loved Sam Cooke, Otis Reading, The Temptations and Curtis Mayfield. The first record I purchased was Sly & The Family Stone. I liked the combination of love music and the funk.
I did a lot of background vocals for various people like George Benson and Melba Moore on her ‘Peach Melba’ album on ‘Take My Love’. I was a study background singer working for artists like James Ingram. When I wroteMind Up Tonight it was supposed to be for Evelyn King but she passed on it and Melba Moore recorded it.
‘Mind Up Tonight’ was around 1980 so how long where you background singing before you got your own deal?
I’d say for about two years and I was also in college at the time.
It’s clear you accident determined you being a singer but prior to that were you at a cross roads in being a singer, an athlete or an illustrator?
I was studying to be an illustrator and had already established my track skills but I hadn’t given my singing an opportunity. I had a job during the illustrating years but I wanted to put all my effort into doing music. It took me two years to land the record deal after doing the background stuff for Melba .
I remembered discovering you in 1983 via a tape a mutual music fan had rubbed off for me. It had lots of various tracks starting with the remix of First Choice ‘Let No Man Put Asunder’ but the third record was ‘I Love It’. I rewinded the tape so many times to listen to that song as it blew me away.(Right) That naturally inspired me to by the ‘Let Me Be Yours’ album which had some great tracks as a debut album. I loved your Temptations cover of ‘Just My Imagination’, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, ‘You’re A Good Girl’ and ‘Trust Me’ but ‘I Love It’ was such a good track to dance to.
Yeah that was Paul Laurence who wrote that and Freddie Jackson wrote ‘Trust Me’.
Melba and her husband had a management company which had yourself Kashif, Paul Laurence and Freddie Jackson. How did that experience work for you?
That was great and we all came together as none of us were previously on Hush Productions. Paul and Kashif were with Morrie Brown’s Might M Production. Morrie would take their songs and shop them to other artists. I knew Kashif from Brooklyn as we both grew up there and Kashif brought me to Mighty M Production. They liked my song ‘Mind Up Tonight’ and that’s where I met Melba who as one of my advisors in getting my deal, and I was the first to sign up to Hush Productions. Paul Laurence came over and became my producer and we were both on Capitol Record, but Kashif was on Arista. I did a lot of Kashif’s background vocals but he never wrote on any of my CDs as that was just Paul Laurence Jones.
When I listen to Paul Laurence’s production he does sounded like a clone of Kashif, who was now working with Melba, Howard Johnson and George Benson. Did they work that closely together on production because if I didn’t know it was Paul Laurence, I would have thought it was Kashif who produced you?
Yeah I think a lot of people would think that. The difference was that Kashif had become and artist as well but Paul Laurence concentrated on producing and became an artist later. So Kashif and Paul worked very closely together at Mighty M Production. They both have their own uniqueness. Kashif is an excellent keyboard player and he wrote very nice grooves, but Paul had a very sensitive touch in knowing how to embellish a song, and they both learned from each other. Paul is a little quieter than Kashif who is a little bit more out there.
Did you know Kashif when he was in BT Express and before he changed his name ?
Yeah I knew Kashif when he was in a group called Stepping Stone and this was way back in the day before BT Express. We didn’t hang out but we knew each other from being into the music scene and I knew him as Michael Jones .
Did Stepping Stone ever record anything?
No they were just a neighbourhood band.
How was it working with Tawatha on your album?
Fonzie Thornton and Tawatha were in demand as session vocalists in those days. Also Audrey Wheeler and Cindy Mizelle where very tight back then.
The next album ‘All For You’ you sang the title with Melba Moore but the track that created excitement for us over hear was ‘Settle Down’.
I also liked ‘I Like Your Style’ and you did a version of ‘My Girl’ by The Temps
Yeah as I said I love The Temptations and on one my albums I also did an Otis Redding tracks as I’m a big fan of him as well.
How did you end up touring with Eddie Murphy with your second album?
Eddie was a fan and he was doing his tour and he invited me to come along. The first part of the tour was done by the Bussboys, then he asked me to do the second part, because they were going out on their own tour. It was just a random call one day when he asked me and he also gave me a shout in his film ‘The Nutty Professor’ which was really nice(Ok I messed that I’ll have to watch the film again for that part.)
I’d left Hush production and was doing things on my own, so that was the first album outside of them in 1987, as I did a direct deal with Capitol as the previous was just a production deal.
You managed to capture people with you voice and that electro soul we were experiencing in the 80’s as opposed to the live instruments moving with technology.(Yeah getting into drum machines)
I have to admit I stopped picking up your stuff after ‘Sexy Girl’ and although you did a couple more albums it would appear that you weren’t as prominent as you were previously, so what were you up to?
I stopped music for a while as I felt that the industry was changing although for 7 to 8 years I was still on the road. I just felt to back up and re assess what I was in the industry for. I took a break for three years and got involved in other businesses. I found music again and came back in the way I felt most comfortable. When you work with Hush Production and Capitol they work with other people and they have different vision to how you see yourself, so I need to understand where I was coming from as an artist.
Would you say that your falsetto voice was your chosen key to sing in?
Yes I sing very naturally with that tone and it’s basically the same way that I talk.
Out of The Temptations I would say your voice would lend to Eddie Kendrick and also to Curtis Mayfield’s falsetto style (Right and there is Smokey Robinson too and that kind of tone).
Did you do backing vocals on Paul Laurence’s ‘There Ain’t Nothing Like Your Loving?’
No Paul didn’t let me do anything on his album because he wanted to see what he could do on his own. The only one was ‘She’s Not A Sleaze’ with me Paul and Freddie Jackson.
I always felt you could have sung that song(Really?) For sure because Paul did a great job but for me you had already set the template with ‘I Love It’. His vocals are not too dissimilar to yours. maybe he found you a bit of a threat
Yeah I think he had me in mind when he did his vocals and he always said he enjoyed my vocals.
Enjoy your time performing in London unfortunately I’m working elsewhere.
Thank you I’m looking forward to get re aquatinted with London again, say hello and have a great show and a good time.
Nice talking with you Fitzroy
Catch Lillo Thomas at 51st State Saturday 4th August at Trent Park check the website for details https://www.51ststatefestival.com
I have spoken with Angie Stone quite a few times and documented her ‘Mahogany Soul’ ‘Life Story’ in The Soul Survivors Magazine Issue 65 two years ago. I seen her live quite a few times as well as being blessed to DJ for her at the old Town & Country kentish Town in 2005 and at Indig02 in 2012 when she shared the stage with our UK ‘Souljah Survivors’ Don-e and Omar. I caught up with Angie one of the main headlined acts last night, ahead of her sold out concert at The Roundhouse tonight 6th July for a short and sweet moment. So here is our me at our SS HQ office and Angie at her hotel virtual reality evening soiree ‘teh ta teh’..enjoy Fitzroy
“Hey Fitzroy Whatssup?”
You sound like you remember me?
“I do(ok) you did the drawing of me”(yep guilty as charged).
Nice to speak with you again. Last time spoke you mentioned in order to tell the story of your first break into the industry with Sequence, that there should be a movie, any developments on that happening and if so who would play you?
“There have actually been some talks but whether it materialises into anything phenomenal remaining to be seen. A couple of names have been thrown around but I don’t think they are good choices. I would want someone who resembled me. I know Jennifer Hudson’s name came up once but again I don’t think that she is a befitting choice even though she is one of my fave singers, I don’t think she resembles me enough”.(Ok it’s still in working progress).
I have seen you quite a few times at various venues, and it would be fair to say you have huge fan base here in the UK. What is it about performing in the UK as to why you can’t turn down an invitation to perform?
“I just love the energy here and the people. I think because I signed my record deal here with J Records, it’s like a home base for me.”
I saw you at outdoor The Fold Fest at Fulham Palace Gardens event two years ago. How did you find performing to a more festival loving audience in an open space event as opposed to an indoor R&B soul loving audience?
I’ve recently seen the film Southport weekender film premier One Nation Under A Groove and they have included a part of you performing where you teach the audience how to to the Angie Stone Soul Clap.(“Uhmm Hhmm”) Will you be doing that exercise tomorrow night?
Out of your vast catalogue what will you be performing tomorrow?
“I got a lot of requests and I can’t do them all. I will be doing melodies of the ‘Black Diamond’ and ‘Mahogany Soul’. For the most part your Angie Stone grooves and we just gonna jam and gonna have fun. I don’t want to give it all away.”
(Photo taken by Fitzroy Facey June 2016 @ Fold Fest Fulham Palace Gardens London)
How long is your set?
“It all depends on what the crowd says. It could be short or long. But I”ll have you know that it’s already sold out and that is a big deal for me.”
Have you ever done the Roundhouse before?
“No I haven’t. I hear there is a festival with other artists here.”
Yes there’s quite a few artists lined up like Leroy Hutson, Cymande, Incognito, George Clinton and Lalah Hathaway was earlier in the week. It’s a two week festival which is quite brave considering the World Cup is on. So it’s really good that your event is sold out
“So the festival has been going fairly well?”
I think it started this week and and by all accounts Lalah Hatahway was a great night. You are one of the headline acts so it’s to be expected that your would sell out. Will you be doing ‘Brutha’?
(Angie laughs) “Of course.”
Do you have anything new coming out?
“Yes I have a new album I have just finished which remains untitled but it’s coming out hopefully before the end of this year.”
Last question, when is Angie Stone doing a jazz album?
“Probably once I do a gospel album ha ha”
“Thanks Sweetie I look forward to seeing you tomorrow”
Thanks to Sacha and Rosalia at Hush PR https://www.facebook.com/hushhushp
For ticket availability please click on this link http://www.roundhouse.org.uk/whats-on/2018/innervisions-festival/angie-stone/
Eddie Levert and The O’Jays began their legacy as teenagers singing doo wop. With a few name changes, but retaining their nucleus structure, they decided collectively to ‘Put Our Heads Together’ and signed to Gamble and Huff’s PIR label. Eddie became the primary lead vocalist with a voice of such distinction, albeit a ballad, mid tempo or a disco boogie groove regardless.. it was ‘Time To Get Down’. The group’s ethos always aimed to ‘Give The People What They Wan’t, hence The O’Jays have been together for 56 years. For the last 26 of them they have not graced the UK shores until this pending concert in September. So get on board the ‘Love Train’, ‘This Time Baby’ and prepare to show some ‘Unity’ if you want to see The O’Jay’s ‘Sing A Happy Song’ because ‘We’re All In This Thing Together’. This edited interview was conducted in 2014 in issue 54 of The Soul Survivors Magazine..To get a hard copy please purchase via http://www.thesoulsurvivorsmagazine.co.uk/product/issue-54-july-august-2014/
What influenced you growing up in Ohio, home to the Isley Bro’s and Ohio Players around the same time?
Those two you speak of were influential, especially the Isley Brothers. When they were doing ‘Twist and Shout’ I used to go to Detroit and see them at the Woodwood Theatre. They were a fantastic and exciting act for a three man group as they were all over the place. They were very instrumental in our forming of the O’Jays because of their gospel sound and background in the way that Ron Isley sang, it certainly influenced me and Walter. The Ohio Players were our back up band for a while before they started making big hits. We used to go to Buffalo and play at the Revalot Lounge and they would open up the show before us and then back us as we sang. They had a very raw and funky danceable sound back then, which wasn’t as refined but very gritty and earthy.
I know you believe in hard work and practice till you can do it naturally and were influenced by some of the greats like James Brown, Jackie Wilson and Gladys Knight to sharpen up your performance skills (Yeah). At what point did you realise you had that raspy vocal that would make a difference?
Wow I didn’t realise my voice had a uniqueness until we recorded songs like ‘Backstabbers’, ‘Love Train’ and ‘For The Love Of Money’.
What led to you renaming the group after the DJ Eddie O’Jay?
We went to Detroit to audition for Berry Gordy’s Motown and Eddie O’Jay didn’t think that the deal was a fair offer. Berry’s ex wife Thelma had a record company called Deco and she eventually signed us. We recorded a song called ‘The Way I Feel About You’ and they wanted to put the record out but we didn’t like the name The Triumphs that we had at the time. We needed to come up with a name and Eddie O’Jay suggest we used his name temporarily till we found another one. We never looked back.
During that Gamble and Huff, Neptunes and PIR interim you recorded the soulful and funky ‘Superbad’ album, a completely different direction for the O’Jays. Featuring Now ‘He’s Home’, ‘Crossroads Of Life’, ‘Shattered Man’ and the epic ‘Peace’, who were some of the uncredited players on the album?
That was a compilation album of material we did with both HB Barnum and Philly International musicians. We were on the west coast and HB Barnum collated talents like Bernard Purdie and Eric Gale with Bobby Martin, Earl Young and Thom Bell from Philly.
There was also an interest from Motown and Invictus Records but what cemented the move to Gamble and Huff’s new venture PIR records?
We experienced a degree of success at Neptunes that we’d never experienced prior to signing with them. When the Neptunes distribution deal folded with Chess Records we almost went home thinking what do we do now? Our biggest reason to go back to Gamble and Huff was them playing us the instrumentals of ‘Back Stabbers’, ‘Love Train’, ‘You Are My Sunshine’ and ‘Let Me Make Love To You’. These were songs we could connect with via our gospel roots and when you’re rehearsing with Leon Huff playing the piano, it sounds like you have a full orchestra with you.
The monumental and diverse ‘Back Stabbers’ album had a million seller title track, the universal ‘Love Train’, ‘992 Arguments’ and ‘Time To Get Down’. I heard you say that you felt The O’Jay’s brought a gospel feel to the Gamble and Huff sound that was previously one of a popular bubblegum flavour. So how easily did the O’Jays group, the team of Philly musicians and the Gamble and Huff creative team gel?
When we went back to Philadelphia International myself and Walter switched leads on a song called ‘It’s Too Strong’ and it was the very first time we did that. That helped give Gamble and Huff the direction of where we should be. From there onwards that marriage helped to create the Philly sound, as opposed to that bubblegum sound as you mentioned. With us, Harold Melvin, The Intruders and Billy Paul onboard it was now a grittier gospel sound with strings and horns.
Were you the first PIR act to be signed?
Yeah basically along with Billy Paul and The Intruders who were always around Gamble and Huff.
There is some discrepancy on the story of The O’Jays not wishing to record ‘Back Stabbers’. I saw an interview where Walter is trying to explain what happened but what is the real truth?
MacFadden and Whitehead wrote the song then sang it to us in the studio as a guide vocal so our first impression was a little dubious as it sounded nothing like our finished version! Now it gets very hot in Philly and whilst rehearsing, the window was open and there was a breeze blowing. Walter was trying to slide the lyrics sheet onto the table but the breeze caught it and the lyrics ended up on the floor. MacFadden and Whitehead mistakingly made out it was thrown on the floor purposely by Walter because we didn’t want to sing their song, which is untrue. ‘Back Stabbers’ is one of the greatest songs ever recorded, and from the time we sung it to a piano with the rhythm track, put the background, lead vocals and strings on it, we knew it was gonna be a hit.
How much can you elaborate on the story of recording my favourite off that album ‘When The World’s At Peace’ and the disappearance of the far superior first vocal take?
Wow (Eddie’s surprise at me mentioning it) yeah. I’d always been into message music and wanted to say something musically to the world apart from just wooing women or to make love to. So ‘When The World’s At Peace’ appeared we did the background vocals and I felt I needed to put that churchy gospel sound on it. I did the lead vocal in one take and it was agreed by everyone to be such a great vocal performance. We went home and when they mixed it, somehow the engineer erased my vocals. I had to go back and reduplicate that performance but it was never as strong. It was still a great song though.
Gamble and Huff seemed to champion concept albums more-so with The O’Jays than of the other male PIR groups and the most pioneering is ‘Ship Ahoy’. With a powerful front and back gatefold cover it harboured the funky conscious ‘For The Love Of Money’, the original before Third World of ‘Now That We Found Love’ and the most compelling slavery tale ‘Ship Ahoy’. Kenny Gamble told me that the track was almost a visual one when I spoke with him. What kind of spiritual emotions did you have connecting with the song as I can only imagine?
It was telling the historical story of the black man’s plight coming from Africa to America and the trouble and strife they endured. I was able to take myself to that place and the greatest part of that was replicating it at live performances. We actually had a ship, slaves and dancers to reproduce it visually. We had back lighting and we, The O’Jays, were half dressed in rags and chains looking like slaves and this was all Charlie Atkins’s production and choreography. It actually looked like we were on a ship and it was a message to black people, showing what happened, where we are now and not to forget where we came from.
That resinates with me as my parents come from Jamaica and being a young black male when I first heard that song it reminded me of watching Roots in the 1970’s as a kid. Did you start to see the method in the madness in Gamble and Huff’s approach in spreading message music?
Me and Kenny Gamble were already in that frame of mind as we both studied Jehovahs Witness and Buddism. All those songs like ‘Now That We Found Love’, ‘When The World’s At Peace’, ‘Back Stabbers’ and ‘Love Train’ was all about our belief and faith. ‘Ship Ahoy’ was a message we needed as humanitarians to give to the world like the song title ‘Give The People What They Want’ suggests.
The next album’s self titled ‘Survival’ and ‘Give The People What They Want’ were my favourite tunes followed by another well embraced concept album ‘Family Reunion’. With great songs like the titled track, ‘Unity’ and the classic disco anthem ‘I Love Music’, four Philly albums in, how comfortable were you and the group with being centre of attention of the label’s success?
A lot of our songs were message music however we felt at the time that Gamble and Huff were not writing hit records for us but more for Harold Melvin And the Bluenotes. I was complaining because I thought they were getting the best records and Teddy Pendergrass was having success with ‘Close The Door’ and ‘Get Funky Get Loose’. But with us being The O’Jays, a high calibre level act, we realised that we were actually the PIR label’s musical messengers making hit records, so it was really great being the premier group of the label and I Love Music was the start of the disco era in 1976.
I do, and in fact when I spoke with Archie Bell he said he felt a similar thing like they were getting side lined. To be honest, because of how PIR is set up I actually think that, for example, ‘Message In The Music’ could have been sung by Archie, The Intruders or Harold Melvin because of the production. It has it’s highs and lows, being part of a successful camp…
You gotta remember, when I see Archie Bell doing ‘Tighten Up’ I wished that song was mine to perform as that’s how artists are. When I heard ‘The Love I Lost’ by Harold Melvin I thought I should have done it but its the same for the other groups toward us also, because we always wanna feel we can do any song. They did a great job of individualising the music as it gave everybody a chance to be who they were. But I don’t think Harold Melvin And The Bluenotes could have done ‘Message In The Music’ though Ha ha ha ..No seriously they could have but we got to it first.
‘Message In The Music’ album gave us the classic ‘Darling Darling Baby’, ‘Let Life Flow’ and ‘Make A Joyful Noise’. MacFadden, Whitehead and Castraphen certainly made their mark on this album. Jean Carn said she had the best time working with the aforementioned Mighty Three, I understand you share those sentiments also but why?
It’s the free flowing atmosphere with those three as it is also with Bunny Sigler because they were emotionally attached to the music. It’s like going on stage when you perform their music because they’d be dancing around in the studio, which would make you dance too.
After speaking with Archie Bell you get an insight to how big the ‘Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto’ project was. Contributing on the title track and the funky brass jazzy Big Gangster, how important was that project which was like your version of ‘We Are The World’?
Absolutely. When they did ‘We Are The World’ they managed to pull in major stars from around the world but we assembled it from our label nucleus.
‘So Full Of Love’ made popular due to the success of ‘Used To Be My Girl’ and the ballad ‘Brandy’ is if you seek, you shall find another O’Jays’s gem in my humble opinion. Hosting the original version of Jackie Moore’s disco classic ‘This Time Baby’.
Yeah we had a lot of records covered by others who had hits and we were very jealous. (We both laugh)
I am enamoured by the emotive ‘Cry Together’ and the under the radar boogie bullet ‘Take Me To The Stars’. How was it having a hand in producing both an uptempo ‘Take Me To The Stars’ and a ballad, your composition, ‘Help (Somebody Please)’ and was it the first time you were afforded the privilege of producing on PIR?
It was part of our new deal that we got to produce and write songs. We wanted to do more but spent so much time on the road. ‘Take Me To The Stars’ was written by a friend of ours, Larry Hancock, and we used a lot of different things on that production, like synthesizers and phaser sounds, that were not used before. We tried to be innovative, using Dexter Wansel’s spacey sounds and it was very unique because we wanted to go to a different place with our music. With ‘Help Somebody Please’ I often see Mtume and joke with him that our song inspired his hit ‘Juicy Fruit’. He took our sound, captured it and took it to another level, which we couldn’t due to our commitment on the road.
As we come to the end of the 1970’s with the ‘Identify Yourself’ album you continue with the very uplifting ‘Sing A Happy Song’, co-writing ‘Hurray Up And Come Back’ and sharing vocals on ‘One In A Million’. With the Philly sound embracing newer dimensions on The ‘Years 2000’ 1980 album, the Gamble and Huff conscious vision continues and you co-wrote one of my all time favourite O’Jays cut ‘You’re The Girl Of My Dreams’.
That is a song with Dwayne Mitchell, a keyboard player/musician, but he passed away in the middle of our creativity. If we could have spent more time with him we could have made more inroads musically. ‘Girl Of My Dreams’ was innovative and a direction almost like Barry White.
How did you get to work with Stevie Wonder on his ‘Hotter Than July’ album singing with Betty Wright and Michael Jackson on his classic ‘All I Do’?
We’d been great friends with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. That session was supposed to start at 10 o’clock and Stevie, being blind, has no concept of time and we didn’t start that session til 3am, finishing at 6am. We had a great time and didn’t get paid, we did it for Stevie.
The next three albums, ‘My Favourite Person’, ‘When Will I See You Again’ and ‘Love Lots More’ would see the Gamble and Huff, Womack and Womack and Keni Burke influences. Tracks like ‘I Just Want To Satisfy’, ‘Put Our Heads Together’, ‘Extraordinary Girl’ and ‘Summer Fling’ would flourish. You lasted another 2 albums on PIR, whereby all the other Philly male groups had diminished. Why do you think that was?
They became disgruntled as the hits weren’t coming in. We were still the premier act on the label and we had a special friendship beyond the music with Gamble and Huff. We still do, to this day, talk about doing something special together.
What’s the sense of pride you feel being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 2005?
It’s quite an achievement to be in the same camp as the rock groups, R&B groups, like The Temptations, and being recognised by the industry. The O’Jays have made an impact for sure and the greatest group for me was The Temptations and we took what they did to another level and hopefully we will be synonymous with their success.
Yesterday was father’s day here in the UK and I’m sure you often think of your two sons who have sadly passed. I had the pleasure of DJing at the Jazz Cafe when Gerald was promoting his socially conscious album ‘Do I Speak For The World?’ album. The leader of the group Levert and collaborator with many projects including a commanding performance on Larry Gold’s ‘Dance’ on BBE he had an incredible vocal presence. I loved his song with you ‘What Happened To The Loving?’ and in particular ‘Click a Glass’ interpolating elements of the O’Jays ‘Family Reunion’. Obvious, but a valid question, how proud are you of his gift to the world?
Some of my greatest moments in showbusiness and on recording records was with this kid. We did a version of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ which still stirs me and always stays with me. He was a prolific writer in RNB and I think people are just discovering that. In terms of how proud of him, he was my hero.
The O’Jays are coming over to the UK in so what can we expect from you ?
You’re going to see classic O’Jays like ‘Darling Darling Baby’, ‘This Time Baby’, ‘Brandy’, ‘Living For The Weekend’ and every facet of the O’Jays. From the early years to right now we’ll do ‘Lipstick Traces’, ‘Back Stabbers’, ‘Love Train’, ‘Let Me Make Love to You’ and ‘Stairway To Heaven’. So tell the people to be ready to have the twinkling of the glasses.
Thanks Eddie .
Tickets for The OJays at Drury Lane London 15th July 2018 via the link https://www.reallyusefultheatres.co.uk/performances/show/the-ojays
Welcome to our edited digital online issue of the latest 12th anniversary issue of The Soul Survivors Magazine for June & July 2018. Please check out the news reviews and interviews as indicated on the front cover. Our digital edition is an interactive platform whereby you can listen to music whilst you read the interviews of the chosen artists. If music is the food for your soul, then check out these few tasty biscuits via our record reviews. Just click on the artwork image to listen to the tracks as you read the review. There is something for everyone so enjoy… Fitzroy. PS if you want the hard physical copy you can subscribe and get yours or become a member by clicking on
You’ve been making music since the 1950s when you were part of the Doo Wop act The Parliments. How would you describe your journey from being a Doo Wop act to becoming part of Motown’s writing staff, not recording anything and then evolving in the late 1960s to become Funkadelic in the 1970s?
From The Parliments, Motown was the next evolution of Doo Wop. It was all about the Doo Wop groups like Anthony & The Imperials and The Heartbeats before Motown came with Smokey Robinson and ‘Shop Around’ in 1959. So we gravitated towards Motown and it was really hard to get into that because we were not from Detroit. However I ended up writing songs for Jobete, which was Berry Gordy’s wife’s label in New York. In the meantime I got a deal with a label in Detroit called Golden World. They were one of Motown’s competitors and put out a single out called ‘I Wanna Testify’ on their Revilot label, which was our first single. This was around 1967-1968 when the England and Europe invasion started to influence rock and roll in America. Motown was waining so we had to change again.
What the English and European groups were doing was blues and rock and roll, which was what I heard around my Mother in my early childhood. The funky part of that hadn’t been explored, which was basically what New Orleans was doing and what Motown was doing without the violins. We decided to turn the volume up on the Motown sound by turning the guitars up on the Marshall amp and made our version of psychedelic and called it Funkadelic. The bass was predominant and treated funk the way rock and roll had been previously treated. That was the beginning of psychedelic Motown and they used to call us The Temptations or James Brown on acid. Bootsy then came along and added to that which became what you now know as P Funk. We added the horns and that James Brown sound so it was another evolution and that’s when we become the Mothership Connection. Hip-hop came along and it was popular with the hip-hop culture and here we are now.
Absolutely. What’s interesting is that I was born in 1964 and as a teenager in the 1970s I saw the whole evolution of Parliament becoming Funkadelic more so toward the end of the 1970s. Being a black Afro Caribbean child and seeing you guys up there being innovative philosophical and outrageous using all the elements of black music that had come before was inspiring. We are talking rock, funk jazz, gospel, psychedelia and I loved the creativity. In your own way you were doing an ideology slightly more left field and psychedelic of what Earth Wind & Fire were doing. (George: “Right.”) How do you explain mixing all those different genres with gospel church organ melodies with melancholy story telling and profound meaning on those ‘Mothership Connection’ to ‘Gloryhalistupid’ Casablanca albums, and getting away with it especially at a time when music was being pigeon holed into certain areas?
Basically we made that possible when we did Funkadelic ‘Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow’. We did that not to be put in a bag again, and do whatever we wanted to do. By doing it in an album format we were not worried about getting hit singles as we always went for concept albums. By the time we get to ‘Chocolate City’ and ‘Mothership Connection’ we made the whole albums as a story. It was easy to do what the King Crimson or The Beatles did, as all those groups used pop, folk, classical, funk and all those different sounds without being put into a bag. So that’s what I did with mixing the blues, gospel and jazz but it was all really black, extremely black. We were not preaching but we asked questions about what people would be thinking, but nobody would ask. Our ethos was “Thinking ain’t illegal yet!” In our songs all we asked was for those to think instead of being preached to.
Definitely there were so many subliminal messages, in particular for black people, in those albums. You mentioned James Brown earlier on, I cannot recollect if you two ever worked together and if not why not?
During a particular period of time I had half of his band as the horn players came from James Brown and Bootsy came from him too.
Yeah I know Maceo and Fred Wesley etc played with you but because you were both distinctive individual funk generals, I can only imagine what you two, as a combination would produce.
We did one song called ‘Go For Your Funk.’
In 1978 I was fourteen years old at high school when Funkadelic ‘One Nation Under A Groove’ came out. (George: “That was big for us and we came to London on the day it came out.”) That record blew me away as it really solidified for me how deep you guys were. That song was deeper than the earth’s core and I understood everything stated in the lyrics of that song. It reminded me of what Gamble & Huff where doing with Philadelphia International Records with concepts and a message in the music. “Getting down just for the funk of it, we‘re on the move nothing can stop us now, here’s our chance to dance our way out of our constrictions”. It was as you describe very black and such a massive uplifting record for us, so I’m guessing that is what you aimed it to be?
That is exactly what I wanted it to be and I’m glad you said that because that is one of the songs that as a copyright I now own, alongside ‘Knee Deep’. Funkadelic got its first big hit with ‘One Nation Under A Groove’. (I loved on the import 12 that it has the predominately instrumental version with the rock guitar). Yeah I’m getting ready to release that again right now both versions.
I also remember buying ‘Knee Deep’ from Lullaby’s in West Ealing during my lunch break at school in 1980. I cannot explain what that record does to me with all the Funkadelic trademarks including operatic style that reminded me of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. (George: “Right I know what you mean and I intended elements of that song to be like the waltz with that classical inspiration.”)
So around the late 1970s early 80s you created this empire of P Funk with The Parlets, Bernie Worrell, Bootsy with his two personas Bootzilla and Bootsy and all these different acts kind of creating you own Motown. How did it feel as a consummate black artist having so much control over your artists and musicians?
Well it was great but as we got to that point we started getting a back lash. The very thing that you said about it being another Motown was what the industry didn’t want particularly as they dominated the charts every week. We were aspiring to do that with all the different concepts on different labels. We were getting too much power and it became our obstacle to getting the Uncle Jam label. Roger from Zapp was supposed to be the first artist on Uncle Jam but he got stolen from us and ended up on Warner Brothers. (Fitzroy: “Ok I didn’t know that.”) That was 1980 and that virtually ended our relationships with all the labels at the same time. Our new album Medicated Broad Dog is the first one we’ve had out since 1980 and this picks up where we left off in 1980.
P Funk impacted on a lot of bands including The Gap Band and George Duke who had what I call G Funk and that whole sound was being adapted by so many different outfits. There were times if you didn’t know who the artists were you’d ask yourself if it was Funkadelic or Parliament. So how did you feel about so many emulating your style?
I felt good as that is what happened in the 50’s with rock and roll. Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and anyone that did what they did in 1955 started out that way. Although you got soft rock, light rock and easy rock all those came from the rock and roll source. So making funk legitimate using jazz or blues and all the other elements, I’m proud of that. They still haven’t given us a Grammy for the Funk platform, which they will because it’s getting ready to be pop now with Bruno Mars and all that is pop music.
I’m going to be really respectful and end this because my time is up. Thanks for agreeing to continue this interview another time.
You can get tickets to catch George Clinton live at The Innervision Festival at The Round House July 8th 2018 via this link https://www.innervisionsfestival.com