A Battle of Funkiness: George Clinton vs Sly Stone

Posted by: on Mar 3, 2011 | 2 Comments

I should preface this by saying I really love both of these musicians and comparing an arbitrary, completely subjective quality like “funkiness” is not even possible. Unless you had some kind of funkometer… Even then, the results would be highly speculative. Anyway, since George Clinton and Sly Stone are two heavyweights of the funk genre, I thought a side by side was in order…

George Clinton

Sly StoneYOUTH[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]In 1955, he formed “The Parliaments” in the back room of a New Jersey barbershop at age 15. The doo wop quintet would later turn into Parliament-Funkadelic. What were you doing at 15?[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Sly mastered guitar, bass, drums and keyboards by age 11, and joined The Viscaynes in high school, an integrated doo wop group. The band’s diversity gave Sly the idea for The Family Stone’s multicultural, multiracial lineup.[/column]

INFLUENCES[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]James Brown was obviously Clinton’s main squeeze, but he was also heavily influenced by Detroit bands like the Stooges and MC-5, as well as acid culture and psychedelic bands like Vanilla Fudge and Cream.[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Sly’s religious upbringing had a large influence on the church revival sound of The Family Stone, but he also drew upon musicians like Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Arthur Lee, Lloyd Price and the Beatles for inspiration.[/column]

DRUG USE & ABUSE[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]As the fearless leader of P-Funk, Clinton had his hands full keeping fellow band members Eddie Hazel and Tiki Fulwood sober enough to play and record, and kicking out guitarist Tawl Ross for his LSD-fueled truancies.[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″] No stranger to the drug culture of the 60s and 70s, it’s said that Sly traveled with a violin case packed with illegal drugs like PCP and cocaine. A former bodyguard described him as the “Cocaine King”.[/column]

FUNKIEST LINE[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]”Microbiologically speaking / When I start churnin’, burnin’ and turnin’ / I’ll make your atoms move so fast / Expandin’ your molecules / Causing a friction fire / Burnin’ you on your neutron / Causing you to scream / ‘Hit me in the proton, BABY!'”[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]”Step off’n the collar / Slugged me in the face / Chit chat chatter trying / Shoved me in the place / Thank you for the party / But I could never stay / Many things are on my mind / Words in the way / I want to thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”.[/column]

COLLABORATIONS[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]Between Snoop Dogg, Bootsy Collins, Prince, Sly Stone, Outkast and Wu Tang (among others), GC’s down ‘n dirty collabs are what funky dreams are made of.[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Sly has worked with Bobby Womack, The Time, The Bar-Kays, Earth, Wind and Fire, as well as Phunk Phamily Affair… a Sly & the Family Stone tribute band.

AND THE FUNKIEST IS: It was a close race, with both candidates having large, funky oeuvres that have influenced countless musicians since, but there can only be one. And that one is… George Clinton. Can anyone really be funkier than the King of Interplanetary Funkmanship, the Prime Minister of Funk, Dr. Funkenstein himself? Probably not. I mean I think it’s physically impossible. GC sleeps, breathes and eats funk. For him it goes beyond just the music: Funk is a lifestyle and a philosophy. He explains: “Funk is fun. And it’s also a state of mind… But it’s all the ramifications of that state of mind. Once you’ve done the best you can, funk it!”

Funkadelic’s “Can You Get to That”:

Sly and the Family Stone’s “A Family Affair”: