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While Nadéah’s Too Drunk To Fuck cover is certainly amazing, and while it comes fairly close – far closer than most musical acts – to what I would play if I could create my own music, that doesn’t mean it’s the only musical style worth knowing or playing. If I had technical skill, but no musical creativity, I would sure as heck play Bootsy Collins when my friends came over. While Trump is inviting a Bruce Springsteen cover band to play his inaugural, my (imaginary) cover band will be tuning up and tuning in to an entirely different art form: not soulful rock, not even soul, not even simply funk. As amazing as James Brown was without the (original) JBs, as amazing as George Clinton was in his solo work, Bootsy Collins gave the work of those men – and so many others – a kick like no other. Michael Hutchence couldn’t come close to a kick like that. No, as long as you’re going to give me the funk,
you’re going to have to make my funk the P-Funk:
Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop! That funk is chocolate-covered. Freakin’ habit forming.
Bootsy Collins is a legend in the music industry, and rightfully so. While his frequent collaborator, George Clinton, was also masterfully creative, Bootsy was every bit as instrumental in creating the unique, multi-band community known as the “Parliafunkadelicment Thang” – later shortened to “P-Funk” – and the extraterrestrial brotherhood of whacked-out characters that placed Black folk on top of flying saucers “like it was a Cadillac”. Performing in the metallic-spangly fabric of the day would have overheated me in a minute even without the stage lighting, but Bootsy? Bootsy’s outfits were nearly as outrageously overwrought as Clinton’s, he took fewer costume-change breaks offstage and out of the heat, and he just kept on playing, kept giving up the funk, kept himself cool.
How did he do it? We may never know. This is a man who is so far ahead of the rest of us musically that it seems he doesn’t even know how much we don’t know. To him, the funk is elemental in more than one sense of the word. He can try to describe it, try to educate us, but there’s nothing much to say. You want funk? Just fit it between the Ones:
But even if he can’t get down to my level, can’t understand what I don’t understand, that doesn’t mean he can’t give us word wisdom. A few years ago, io9 interviewed Bootsy, asking him a question that riffed on his latest work:
On the new album, there’s a song called “Free Dumb,” that includes the line, “You say you got a smart phone, but you still make dumb decisions.” Do you think technology helps people to be stupid faster?
That’s too easy, io9. We already know what Bootsy’s yes/no would be. But of course the man who gave us 8 minute grooves on ripped roofing material deliberately removed from some “sucker” is going to have more to say to us than yes or no:
Yeah! (Laughs.) I mean, it’s helping more of us to be stupid, and get stupid quick. I mean you don’t have to waste time to get stupid any more. What it really is, is the smartphones are smarter than us now, you can’t even get lost. If I told you, “Go get lost,” you would probably laugh at me, because you can’t even get lost no more, ’cause you got your smartphone with a GPS. And getting lost actually was fun, because you had to find your way back, and when you take those things out of the human experience, that’s what you take away: the human experience.
Break it down for us, Bootsy, break it down.