Cover image for Brothas be, yo like George, ain't that funkin' kinda hard on you?
Brothas be, yo like George, ain't that funkin' kinda hard on you?
Clinton, George, 1940- , author.
First Atria Books hardcover edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Atria Books, 2014.
Physical Description:
x, 404 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Traces the funk music legend's rise from a 1950s barbershop quartet to an influential multigenre artist, discussing his pivotal artistic and business achievements with "Parliament-Funkadelic.".
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ML420.C575 A3 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
ML420.C575 A3 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
ML420.C575 A3 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
ML420.C575 A3 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ
ML420.C575 A3 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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In this seminal music memoir, Father of Funk George Clinton talks four decades of hit songs, drug abuse, the evolution of pop, rock, and soul music, his legal pitfalls, and much much more.

George Clinton began his musical career in New Jersey, where his obsession with doo-wop and R&B led to a barbershop quartet--literally, as Clinton and his friends also styled hair in the local shop--the way kids often got their musical start in the '50s. But how many kids like that ended up playing to tens of thousands of rabid fans alongside a diaper-clad guitarist? How many of them commissioned a spaceship and landed it onstage during concerts? How many put their stamp on four decades of pop music, from the mind-expanding sixties to the hip-hop-dominated nineties and beyond?

One of them. That's how many.

How George Clinton got from barbershop quartet to funk music megastar is a story for the ages. As a high school student he traveled to New York City, where he absorbed all the trends in pop music, from traditional rhythm and blues to Motown, the Beatles, the Stones, and psychedelic rock, not to mention the formative funk of James Brown and Sly Stone. By the dawn of the seventies, he had emerged as the leader of a wildly creative musical movement composed mainly of two bands--Parliament and Funkadelic. And by the bicentennial, Clinton and his P-Funk empire were dominating the soul charts as well as the pop charts. He was an artistic visionary, visual icon, merry prankster, absurdist philosopher, and savvy businessmen, all rolled into one. He was like no one else in pop music, before or since.

"Candid, hilarious, outrageous, [and] poignant" ( Booklist ), this memoir provides tremendous insight into America's music industry as forever changed by Clinton's massive talent. This is a story of a beloved global icon who dedicated himself to spreading the gospel of funk music.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Parliament-Funkadelic genius and guru Clinton has done everything at maximum-warp intensity, from running a New Jersey barber shop to making revolutionary music to doing drugs to getting blindsided by managerial financial malfeasance. This seminal songwriter, performer, bandleader, producer, founder of the funk nation, pilot of the Mothership, and creator of such hits as Flash Light and One Nation under a Groove tells the mind-blowing story of how and why his artistic mission transcended musical and racial categories. He vividly recounts his mining of doo-wop, R&B, soul, rock and roll, and rap to forge psychedelic funk and its gleefully mischievous mythology mixing science fiction, cartoons, ribald humor, and a call for uplift, freedom, and peace. He also shares his exceptionally astute analysis of the evolution of pop music. Adeptly assisted by New Yorker editor and writer Greenman, Clinton reveals the tumultuous and trippy adventures behind his influential albums, record labels, and dynamic collaborations with the likes of Bootsy Collins and Sly Stone. Clinton's irrepressible spirit, eloquence, and musical acumen flow full-force through this candid, hilarious, outrageous, poignant, and resounding chronicle of perpetual creativity and hope.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Clinton, the far-left-of-center mastermind behind the Parliament-Funkadelic universe, is one of the great outliers of American culture, a homegrown visionary who pulled together R&B, psychedelic rock, pop and experimental music to begat his own idiosyncratic, and massively influential, version of funk. Now in his early 70s, Clinton has been in the game from doo-wop to hip-hop; his own unmistakable contributions reflecting a boundary-free imagination stoked by obsessions with science fiction, societal unease and personal freedom. Collaborating with Greenman, a New Yorker contributor and R&B authority, Clinton recounts, with clearheaded vigor, an absorbing story of early scuffling, slow but steady success, and restless artistic experimentation, in counterpoint with darker tales of drug addiction and inevitable legal wrangling. While we get considerable insight into the workings of an inclusive musical mind unfettered by limitations, what is conspicuously missing is an authentic sense of Clinton's outrageous humor and radical worldview. How can the artist who brought us "Maggot Brain" come off so well behaved? (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Clinton (b. 1941) is best known as the man behind the funk bands Parliament and Funkadelic, and his music has assured him a lasting legacy as one of the seminal figures in R&B. Clinton was born in North Carolina but raised in New Jersey in the 1950s. His autobiography (written with Greenman, coauthor of Questlove's Mo' Meta Blues) follows the almost standard trajectory of hardscrabble upbringing, academic trouble, professional struggle, success, excess, drugs, lawyers, downfall, and renewal. However, Clinton was involved in so much music and with so many key musicians that the anecdotes are plentiful, and the description of his development from doo-wop to soul to funk is fascinating reading. The prolific Clinton wisely includes a discography and a "sampleology." VERDICT Clinton ruled the world of funk, and he produced music that may be among the most sampled. This is his story in rich detail. P-funk fans rejoice! [See Prepub Alert, 4/14/14.]-Bill Baars, Lake Oswego P.L., OR (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You? THE BOMB The Bomb. That's the first thing I remember. It was the end of World War II, and I was four years old, living in Washington, D.C., where all the talk was about the atomic bombs the United States had just dropped on Japan: Little Boy on Hiroshima and Fat Man on Nagasaki. People hoped that they would bring an end to the war, because the country was getting worn-out, and not just the soldiers overseas. They were having blackout drills where you had to turn your lights off at seven o'clock at night, and the planes flying overhead couldn't even see the city. Other days there were military aircraft in the sky, rows and rows of them, and an overall sense of power, or threat, depending on your point of view. Nowadays people say they come from military families but back then every family was military: I had uncles who had been in the war and an aunt who was in the WACs. When the first bomb fell on Japan, people were happy, but they were also holding their breath: no one knew what was going to happen next. The only other thing I remember was potato chips. The Wise potato-chip factory was near us, and we could smell them in the air. Atom bombs, potato chips--you can't eat just one. I hadn't been born in D.C. I was a proud product of the state of North Carolina, coming into the world in Kannapolis on July 22, 1941. I wasn't born in a hospital, and there are rumors that I wasn't even born in a house, that I emerged into the world in an outhouse. I can't confirm or deny that. I was brought to the city not long after. My parents, George and Julious, didn't live together for the most part, but for a little while they lived near each other. Both of them were government employees: my father worked at the U.S. Mint, disposing of money that had been taken out of circulation, and my mother cleaned up at the Pentagon. When the war ended, we moved again, this time to Chase City, Virginia, a small town about seventy-five miles from Richmond. I remember picking asparagus and running in fields. There were two white kids named Richard and Robert who used to take me and my brother Bobby Ray--a year younger than me--fishing and teach us about farming. They also told us how we should stay inside some nights because the Klan would come riding through on horses, wearing sheets. The way they described them to us, I imagined headless horsemen, holding their own heads like flaming pumpkins. I never actually saw them coming through town, but it's a vivid enough memory anyway. Other than that, racism was only an abstract concept to the younger kids in town. There was one movie in town and we all went to the movie, black folk upstairs and white people downstairs. I was a pretty quiet kid. I watched the world because the world seemed so big. About thirty years later, in 1978, I went back to that house in Chase City, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. There was a well outside that couldn't have been more than two feet deep that I had thought was six feet deep at least. There was a little creek that I thought was a river. I thought the backyard was a mile long and two miles wide. I would run around and not come back until dark. At that age, I didn't have a clear sense of being a musician or a songwriter or an entertainer or anything. I wanted to be whatever I was seeing in the movies: a cowboy, probably. Around 1950, I said good-bye to Virginia, too. It was spring, I think. My father didn't show one day, and not very much was said about it. Some time later, a few weeks maybe, he reappeared, but something was different. He was driving a big black new Kaiser automobile, for starters, and the second he stepped out of the car he told us that we were leaving Virginia for New Jersey. I was excited to leave. It sounded like a fresh start, and not just because of the word New. We were going north. We were going in style, from the first moment we got on the highway all the way into New Jersey. From then on, to this day, I traveled the same routes and got familiar with all of the places, all of the road signs, the cigarette advertisements and so on. When we got into Philadelphia there were advertisements for Buttercup bread, Gillette razors. There were lots of Howard Johnsons lining the highway, and gas-station signs I had not seen before. That sparked my infatuation with being on the road and seeing the rest of the world. How could you not love it? When my family pulled into New Jersey that first day, it was like a different world from Virginia. In Chase City, there had been only one movie house. In Jersey, there was one every four or five blocks, playing King Solomon's Mines or Harvey. There were more cars and kids and street peddlers and less sky and air. My mother moved north soon after my father did, and she ended up in East Orange, about ten minutes from where we lived in Newark. Now and then we'd head into New York City, and that was another thing altogether. There were buildings that blotted out the sky. There were more people than I ever knew existed. Work brought my father to New Jersey, and work kept him there. He unloaded ships at the docks, and when he came home at night he had a wagon piled high with potatoes and apples and cabbage that he would sell. That strong work ethic of his was passed down to us, both by example and by constant lecture. All of us who made the move there--me, Bobby Ray, Tommy, and Shirley (we had three others, Brenda, Robbie, Marie, who moved there later, and Jimmy and Patsy were born in Jersey)--were working from pretty early on: not only did we do our chores at home, but he made sure that we got jobs at local stores, too, sweeping up at the end of the day. We did good clean work, not always fun, but that's what my father wanted. He was the boss, and all of us did what he said: get up in the morning, eat, wash up, clean up, keep things neat, don't get into trouble. He didn't play at all. If I got my sense of hard work from my father, I got my love of music from my mother. My father was a churchgoing man and he liked singing gospel, but he worked all the time so it never really had a chance to take hold. He was part of little groups out of church, though, who organized living-room events where a few friends would get together and sing the hits of the day. He was a Sunday singer. My mother, on the other hand, had the music bug and had it bad. She played records around the house all the time and sang along with them. She liked blues, but not only the pure blues--she liked jump blues and rhythm and blues, too, everything from B.B. King and Muddy Waters to Louis Jordan and Wynonie Harris. It was the same kind of music that I would hear later on, in the sixties, coming back to me through British bands like Cream. New Jersey in the fifties was a breeding ground for the next generation of American music--or, more specifically, African-American music, though it wasn't called that then. In East Orange, my mother lived right next door to Reverend Mancel Warwick's grocery store. He had been a Pullman porter and then a cook, and he had ended up as a promoter for gospel records. He was also Dionne Warwick's father. When we went to visit my mother, the Warwick kids were always out playing in the neighborhood, and I got to know them all: not just Dionne, but Cissy, Dee Dee, the whole family. I used to steal candy out of the reverend's store, and my friends and I played at the ballpark up the street, right there in East Orange. I wasn't any good at baseball. I couldn't even be on my own team. They called me Porky and Feet--I had huge feet, adult-size by the time I was twelve years old. There was another branch of my family over in Passaic: my aunt and my cousin Ruth, who took me to the apartments in town where the Shirelles were working on "Mama Said." I was swept up right then and there. Ruth also took me to the Apollo, where I saw the Drifters, the Chantels, and dozens of other groups. I listened to them obsessively and loved them unconditionally. I loved the Flamingos, who had a huge hit with "I Only Have Eyes for You." I loved the Spaniels and especially their lead singer, Pookie Hudson, who became the model for almost every young singer within earshot. I loved the Bobbettes, who were from Spanish Harlem and had a hit with "Mr. Lee" in 1957, and the Blue Belles, who were from the Trenton-Philadelphia area and featured a girl named Patsy Holt. They had a hit with "Over the Rainbow," and she had a real powerful voice even then. Cindy Birdsong, who would later replace Florence Ballard in the Supremes, was also in that group. Years later, when Patsy was renamed Patti LaBelle and I was a hairdresser, I would end up doing her hair. Even without the music, I loved living in Newark, in part because I was royalty. All you had to do was look at the signs. One of the main drags in Newark was called Clinton Avenue, and there was a whole area called Clinton Hills. They were all named after the early American politician George Clinton, who had been the governor of New York and the vice president under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Some days the world seemed to revolve around me, a George Clinton who could go walking down a street named for him in an area named for him. In the middle of this neighborhood where I was royalty, in 1956, they built a new junior high school, and if you can believe it, they called it Clinton Place. And if you can believe that, in that first graduating class, there were no kids whose last names ended in A or B, so I was the first graduate: George Clinton of Clinton Place. You can believe it all because it's all true. As I got a little older, I moved out of the jobs my father got for me and into jobs of my own. I remember delivering milk, working on the Alderney Dairy trucks. I rode a route on Avon Avenue, and the driver of the truck would tell me about all the people who lived there. One of them, he said, was Sarah Vaughan. I knew of her from my parents, who had lots of her records, and a little later she had a big hit with "Broken-Hearted Melody." I never saw her, just dropped bottles at her door. Years later we met backstage somewhere and I told her about it. "I brought you milk," I said. She kind of squinted and frowned until she realized what I meant. Maybe my most important early employment was on the street named for me, Clinton Avenue. There was a record store there called Essex Records, and I had an after-school job there sweeping up. They didn't do returns too much back then--when records didn't sell, they didn't go back to the label, but into the trash bin behind the store--and so lots of records ended up there. Some of them I kept for myself, and some of them, especially the white doo-wop groups and the white rockers, I took to school to sell to the kids. I was the record king of Madison Junior High School for a little while. When American Bandstand started, there was suddenly a way of seeing the differences between the artists--some of them, much to my surprise, were white. But in the mid-fifties, no one knew and no one really cared. You moved to what moved you and you got your hands on anything that made you feel larger. Little Richard would have been one of the records I sold to the white kids. I got fifteen cents a record. Jerry Lee Lewis was another one of the artists that moved, especially "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." Jerry Lee was my favorite too. He had a band that was tight as a motherfucker. Elvis was made to be funky and he had a crew surrounding him, but Jerry Lee was funky for real, stupid funky. When he got going he tore shit up. I also loved bands like the Isley Brothers: they were doing it like motherfuckers since "Shout" in 1959, moving and singing like three Jackie Wilsons all rolled into one. Excerpted from George: Ain't That Funkin' Kind of Hard on You? by George Clinton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Let's Take It to the Stage (1978)p. 1
The Bombp. 5
If You Hear Any Noise, It's Just Me and the Boysp. 12
I'm into Something and I Can't Shake It Loosep. 32
Friends, Inquisitive Friends, Are Asking What's Come Over Mep. 52
Sound a Little Something Like Raw Funk to Mep. 72
Open Up Your Funky Mind and You Can Flyp. 97
Would You Like to Dance with Me? We're Doing the Cosmic Slopp. 108
Everybody Get Up for the Down Strokep. 122
There's a Whole Lot of Rhythm Goin' Roundp. 139
Put a Glide in Your Stride and a Dip in Your Hip and Come on Up to the Mothershipp. 155
When the Syndrome Is Around, Don't Let Your Guard Downp. 176
So High You Can't Get Over Itp. 197
Never Missin' a Beatp. 213
You Can Walk a Mile in My Shoes, but You Can't Dance a Step in My Feetp. 235
The Dog That Chases Its Tail Will Be Dizzyp. 253
Rhythm and Rhyme, Rhythm and Rhyme, Rhythm and Motherfucking Rhymep. 281
If Anybody Gets Funked Up, It's Gonna Be Youp. 313
You Gonna Get Atep. 336
Epilogue: Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?p. 348
Acknowledgmentsp. 357
Appendix A Selected Discographyp. 359
Appendix B Selected Sampleographyp. 373
Appendix C Statement of Jane Peterer Thompsonp. 379
Photo Creditsp. 386
Indexp. 387