Tuesday, December 2, 2014

the last book I ever read (Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? excerpt thirteen)

from Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? by George Clinton with Ben Greenman:

There were only a few stars who carried the torch for raw funk in the mid-eighties, and the baddest of them all was Prince. He knew P-Funk in and out, and he was trying some of the same tricks we had. He believed in the two-band balance, though he did his own take on it, setting the Revolution up against the Time. He wrote and produced for outside acts like the Family, Sheila E., Jill Jones, and more. And his Camille character, a sped-up voice that was one of his alter egos, had more than a little Star Child in it. Prince had been hip to us since the early days. He was the perfect age. In the late seventies, when he was getting ready to debut as an artist, he had brought his first record to his label, which happened to be Warner Bros. During their meetings, they played him Ahh...The Name Is Bootsy, Baby, and it stopped him cold. He didn’t even want to go forward. He took his own record back home and worked on it for eight more months. Mo Ostin from Warner Bros. told me that he had been talking to Prince once and that Prince had given me a compliment: he said I was up there with Elvis and James Brown.

In the early eighties, the feeling was mutual, especially after records like Dirty Mind and 1999. I heard his songs everywhere but more than that, I listened into the middle of them and heard a rock or new wave update of some of the same things we were doing in Funkadelic: 1999 especially, with the sped-up and slowed-down voices, the mix of commercial singles and out-there experiments, even the cover art. Then he exploded with Purple Rain. He was such a talented songwriter, especially when it came to absorbing other people’s styles and making them into something distinctive. Like Stevie Wonder, he wrote songs that were instant standards. “Purple Rain” would have played straight as a country song, or a folk song. But unlike Stevie Wonder, he didn’t like people to cover his material. I didn’t get that. I thought he didn’t understand what publishing was for. It’s to stick a flag in a song and claim it so that when someone else works with it, you get paid.

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