On Jan. 19, the Mothership will land on Hollywood Boulevard when George Clinton officially gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “It feels good as shit,” he tells Rolling Stone of the honor on a phone call from his home in Tallahassee, Florida. “I’m trying to think of some jokes to say, but the truth is that I’m proud as hell.”
The ceremony honoring the Parliament-Funkadelic mastermind — whose music added psychedelic and Afrofuturistic flares to funk, effectively laying the groundwork for hip-hop — will take place at 11:30 a.m. PT on Jan. 19 in front of the Musicians Institute and will be streamed live on WalkOfFame.com.
One of the speakers will be the Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ Anthony Kiedis, who has known Clinton since the 1985 recording of the Chili Peppers’ Freaky Styley, which Clinton produced. “George is a national treasure,” Chili Peppers bassist Flea tells Rolling Stone. “He is a cosmic light, and I have learned from basking in his glow, again and again. His records are an infinite gift that keep on giving; there is always something new to learn. His music transcends all human boundaries, and it will last forever. I love him.”
Other scheduled speakers include civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is assisting Clinton in regaining the copyrights to some of his albums, and songwriter Janie Bradford, who co-wrote “Money (That’s What I Want)” with Motown Records founder Berry Gordy.
Clinton, 82, says he has been looking back on his six-decade career ever since he got news about the honor. “Janie Bradford was at Motown when I started in the early Sixties — ’61 or ’62 — begging to be a songwriter at Motown,” he says. “So I’ve been reflecting on that. Everything I did was trying to prove myself to be worthy of having been on Motown. You think about that at a time when you get a star, and I feel really good about it.”
When asked how he sees his legacy, though, he says he doesn’t like to dwell on what his career might mean macrocosmically since those thoughts could make him lazy. Even now, he feels the need to prove himself. Listening to artists like Eminem, Beyoncé, and the late Prince — “People that work they ass off,” to use his words — motivates him to keep going. “Whenever I see what they’re doing, I always feel like, ‘Damn, I ain’t done shit,’” he says. “I like to be right behind ‘happy.’ I don’t ever want to catch it.”
Clinton is working on three untitled musical projects right now, including one that features a lot of special guests that he’s extremely excited about — but he doesn’t feel comfortable just yet speaking publicly about those recordings. But Clinton says he’s proud of recent recordings he’s made with Erick the Architect and Drake. He has also been spending his time making visual art and touring with the P-Funk All Stars.
“What else am I gonna do?” he says. “I go fishing; I tried to retire two or three times. I did it for a minute and started painting, and that led me right back to music because that’s what I was painting to. I’ve been touring, and it’s better than it’s ever been. Every place we go now, it’s sold out. So if I was going to feel like I’ve ‘made it,’ it would be around now.”
But when he does pause to consider his career, he sees recognitions like getting real estate on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as an honor that he shares with many people — the dozens of musicians who have played with him in Parliament, Funkadelic, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, and many others. “I’m standing on the back of them,” he says, adding that his work to reclaim the copyrights is for his fellow musicians as much as himself. “The whole ‘One Nation Under a Groove,’” he says, citing the Funkadelic song, “that’s what we was talking about.” (Clinton says he recently regained the rights to his solo track “Atomic Dog,” and will be announcing more soon.)
Clinton adds that his “One Nation” vision includes the Chili Peppers and that he’s excited for a reunion at the ceremony. He still vividly remembers welcoming them at his farm in Brooklyn, Michigan, in the spring of 1985 to record Freaky Styley and how much fun they had. “They reminded me of ourselves when we were really younger, headbanging and everything,” he says. “Their whole groove was a new version of what I remember Iggy Pop being like. So I knew where they were coming from, and it worked so good when we got together in the studio and just grooved out.”
Clinton brought in P-Funk mainstays Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, Robert “P-Nut” Johnson, Garry Shider, and others to help the Chili Peppers find their groove on that album. Those sessions laid the groundwork for decades of mutual respect that led to reunions between Clinton and the Chili Peppers in recent years in Australia and L.A.
That bonhomie also speaks to a larger part of Clinton’s legacy: his ability to bring out the best in artists. “I appeal to the ham in people,” he says of his M.O. when he’s working with other artists. “When you’re appreciated, then there’s a certain amount of your ego that you can let go. You put ’em on the spot, and you promote ’em and switch ’em on out there, then you can do shit you never thought you could do. So when I see somebody got something going, I just zone into it and overexpose it.”
It’s a philosophy he summed up with the title of Funkadelic’s 1970 album, Free Your Mind … and Your Ass Will Follow. It’s a way of thinking that has guided his career ever since, and it’s what has helped him achieve honors like the Walk of Fame star. “If you can help people have a good time, you know it’s a good thing,” he says. “We all came to the party together.”
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