Originally published in Through the Lens Magazine on November 15, 2015
Article and photos by Melodie Yvonne Ramey
LAFAYETTE, IN – It’s not often in this life that a person has the chance to stand before greatness. Many great heros are untouchable, and unfortunately in todays’ society of reality star driven merchandising we find that the people shoved to the forefront are most usually just out for themselves. Every so often, however, greatness triumphs, and thanks to the wonderful people of the Lafayette Theater a room packed full of homegrown Hoosiers and travelers from afar all were about to see the stuff of the divine right close up. Parliament Funkadelic was about to take the stage, and they brought with them more than the funk. They came with the legendary and funktastic George Clinton. Concert goers with tickets steadily streamed inside, some scoping out a spot to dance by the stage, and some lucky VIPs climbing the beautiful stairs to the comfort of the balcony to hang at the private bar and chill in style. Long after the theater doors opened fans lined the sidewalks patiently waiting their turn in hopes that the tickets would not be sold out when they finally reached the ticket window.
There’s not much you can say about George Clinton that his illustrious career hasn’t said for him. He revolutionized R&B during the ’70s by adding juicy morsels from influences like Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, and Sly Stone. He took funk to a new level by blending musical genres ranging from jazz and rock to even classical and gospel, eventually creating his own unique style known as “Pfunk.” He created Parliament and Funkadelic then went on to launch a solo career in 1981. With the ’90s came funk-inspired rap and funk rock, and that firmly established Clinton as one of the most important forces in the history of music. Artists from MC Hammer, to LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg were heavily influenced by the Clinton production’s infectious grooves, and used them as the foundation for their recordings. Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, and then on February 16th, 2012 he added to his accomplishments an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the renowed Berklee College of Music. Although it was tough at times, after facing long legal battles Clinton endured, like a force of nature, and triumphed over the troubles that beseeched him.
If pop rock swims in the kiddie pool of the great ocean of music then George Clinton steadily treads the deep end. He strutted on to the stage bringing with him a symphonic tidal wave of rhythm, and sudenly the room was drenched in funk. The fans felt his funkaliscious presence, and began to wriggle and writhe as the air waves floated through and around them enveloping the room. The luscious sound flowing from the stage to the ears of the audience for the evening was entrusted to the Lafayette Theater’s production manager, Andy Vigus. The lights dancing and pulsing with the beat were produced by Vigus as well, and it was obvious that Clinton’s faith was well placed. The crowd bathed in the brilliant illuminations that shimmered with the tempo and pulsed with their own musical heartbeats. Clinton’s devotees went insane, gyrating and throwing their bodies into the air as they chanted along with “Get Off Your Ass and Jam“, a song off their 1975 album Let’s Take It to the Stage. Clinton coaxed them along louder and louder until the only sound that matched the fever pitched funk melodies leaping from their lips was that of the fervid guitar riffs ripping through the air with a heat that could melt steel. Finally, but not a moment to soon the familiar notes of “Atomic Dog” from the 1982 album Computer Games lept off the stage, and the crowd revved themselves up for one more chance to trip the light fantastic.
A performer such as George Clinton may only come along once in a lifetime. The town of Lafayette, Indiana was truly blessed on that chilly night. They were blessed with a ferocious funkadelic heat that spilled out into the streets, following the fans home, and keeping them warm. The normal silence of the night having been replaced by the lingering melodic vibrations of George Clinton’s Pfunk that will keep their cradles rocking for the rest of this lifetime, and on into the next.
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