Traverse City Record-Eagle

Arts & Entertainment

May 11, 2012

Call Clinton 'Dr.' Funk now, thank you

He'll perform Saturday at Streeters

TRAVERSE CITY — Dr. Funkenstein is officially a Doctor of Funk.

Funk icon George Clinton, also sometimes called Funkmaster or The Granddaddy of Funk, recently received an honorary doctorate of music degree from prestigious Berklee College of Music. As befitting the title, he's sporting a new, distinguished look.

"I'm a doctor so I have to dress like a doctor," said the raspy-voiced Clinton, who traded his trademark colorful dreadlocks and outrageous outfits for dapper suits and hats.

The onetime doo-wop singer and Motown songwriter and his Parliament-Funkadelic will be back in Traverse City on Saturday, May 12, for a show at Streeters' Ground Zero. The event is a sort of makeup for the band's 2008 appearance there, when a snowstorm kept many at home.

"This is his third time here," said Doug Streeter, owner of Streeters Entertainment Center. "The first time he sold out. The second we had about half the people because there was a blizzard that day. We even had to bring in some heaters. So we're looking forward to another good show to kind of make up for that."

Clinton and his collective of musicians — known variously as Parliament and Funkadelic — captured 40 hit R&B singles during the 1970s and created the danceable psychedelic-funk music genre called P-funk. Together and in various offshoots and solo projects they helped shape the style and sound of modern American music, from R&B and soul, to urban rap and hip-hop, and even rock.

Now 70, Clinton continues to play to wide and diverse crowds. Except for changing his diet, age hasn't mellowed him a bit, he said.

"It makes me mellow in comparison to the hip-hop stuff that's out. It's not mellow when we hit the stage," said the musician, known for his imaginative lyrics in songs like the No. 1 hits "Flashlight," "One Nation Under a Groove," "Aqua Boogie" and "(Not Just) Knee Deep."

In 1997, Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and earned a Lifetime Achievement Award at the NAACP Image Awards. In 2002, Spin voted them No. 6 of the 50 Greatest Bands of All Time.

But if any further validation were needed, it came in February with Clinton's recognition by Berklee for his enduring musical and cultural contributions.

"Since I've done that I've been getting a lot of calls for talk shows. Yeah, there's more pressure now but I like pressure. I work better under pressure," said the musician, who likes to unwind by fishing (his favorite spots "up north" include the Manistique River).

Besides touring and recording under his own label, The C Kunspyruhzy, Clinton works tirelessly to protect artists' work — including his own — from piracy and to battle for the rights to his old songs. He blogs about the issues on his website,, and in 2009 teamed up with Michigan Congressman John Conyers Jr. to introduce a bill to protect against copyright and royalty theft.

"The record companies are fighting tooth and nail," he said, of the bill's progress. "All the rest of the world has these laws but China and North Korea. That's some bad company."

Recently he ended a successful campaign on the charity-hosting website Indiegogo to raise $50,000 for the restoration and preservation of original recordings, the release of new recordings, and the repair and renovation of the Parliament-Funkadelic family recording studio. Now he's trying to raise $100,000 for the band's legal defense fund.

"We've got a bunch of unreleased and new material and we're packaging it together for fans who donate to the fund," said Clinton, who has battled in court over everything from old contracts that don't apply to today's music business model to the "unauthorized" use of his music in remixes and films.

Saturday's show begins at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $29 plus $3 handling at Ground Zero during regular business hours or the day of the show.

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