Bernie Worrell 1944-2016

Bernie

Pure Music.
Pure Passion.

The man was a vessel. The sounds he made were direct from his soul to yours.
His fingers were only complete when connected to the black and white keys – ivory, wood, plastic – no matter.

His hands rested in chordal patterns. They twitched in brilliant half-steps. Fingerless gloves covered the paws of genius.

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A crooked and friendly smile made it all right.

His contemporaries, if there are any, come from millenia — Monk? Chopin? Bach? Beethoven? Ellington? Debussy? Miles?

Or is it Bootsy, George, Eddie, Garry, Kidd, and the rest of his funkateer cohorts?

One of the finest composers, arrangers, and performers of the 20th & 21st centuries died the other day.

Expired after a thankfully short battle with cancer.

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Expired before he could deliver even more wonderful music.

George Bernard Worrell.
The Wizard of Woo.

Bernie Worrell piano

Bernie Baby We Miss You Already.bernie_worrell

If anyone can make music in the post-earth life it’s this man.

I expect to see him on that cosmic keyboard.

Through the front window of the mothership.

Close encounters of the woo kind.


Here’s some other takes on the legend passing:

How Bernie Worrell Built Our Musical Future (MTV)

Bernie Worrell, masterful P-Funk keyboardist, dies in Everson (Bellingham Herald)

Bernie Worrell, ‘Wizard Of Woo,’ Dies at 72 (NPR)

Bernie Worrell Obituary: Founding Member of Parliament-Funkadelic who helped Talking Heads take new musical directions. (The Guardian)

Bernie Worrell, Parliament-Funkadelic Keyboardist, Dead at 72: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee was also unofficial member of Talking Heads (Rolling Stone)

George Clinton: Bernie Worrell’s passing a ‘huge loss’ (Asbury Park Press)



Worrell

 

 

Everybody’s Got A Thang

The firstest and bestest version of the P-Funk Thang as it was forming in 1969.

 

Bernie isn’t there yet, neither is Tiki, Bootsy or Garry. But the Parliaments are out front and a very early version of Funkadelic is just blaring away behind them melding together 3-4 songs and 3-4 pieces of then unreleased songs.

The Parliaments have their dance moves down and their parts all together, no lie!

Eddie Hazel, Tawl Ross, and Billy Bass are forming a pretty nasty string section. The drummer and keyboard player here were soon replaced. George is from another world.

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Good Morning Eddie

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Who’s the finest electric guitarist of all time? It’s a very short list at the very very top.

There’s likely millions of good ones, thousands of amazing ones, and probably 100’s of legends I have heard of.

But then there’s the very top. The completely untouchable, unplayable motherfuggus that just knock people out. Done.

They make other guitar players try harder– or quit. Mic Guitar drop.

Eddie Hazel is one of those guys.


 

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The most genius amongst a pack of them, he blazed through the P-Funk mob from ’67-’82 then battled his addictions outside of music. By 1990 he was starting his comeback stronger than ever. He passed away in 1992 at the young age of 42, a medical prescription error the supposed cause, unfinished music.


 

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There’s lots of tributes out there. This one always gets me. It’s Bootsy’s tribute track just a few short years after Eddie’s passing. Beautiful.


 


 

Why flip the title? Good morning shows the future is bright.

“Good morning Eddie” because I know through music education our youth (and ignorant adults) will know geniuses like Edward Earl Hazel. They will live forever. They will be studied academically, spiritually, and musically. They are the 20th century masters.


 

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Oh Europa, Europa

Check it, some smart folks are looking into the feasibility of actually going to Europa, the strange moon of Jupiter that has often been pegged in fiction as the home of our alien friends.

Europa is covered in a crust of ice, and our slight bits of data seem to point to an actual liquid ocean roiling around under that crust. Jacques Cousteau is the ambassador of this group, seriously.


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NASA’s rendition of Europa’s crusty surface. No comment on if there’s a liquid ocean below.


On the con side is the seriously high amount of radiation in that part of space, so we’ll just have to wait and see if humans ever make their way to this strange moon. I think our 3rd probe will fly by around 2020, perhaps gathering enough data to launch a robotic mission. The distance is such that each step takes decades.

If aliens are living in our solar system, my personal pick is the moon next to Europa – Io.

That strange mustard yellow thing has a highly-metallic crust with who knows what underneath. Our detection methods can’t see much of anything behind that metal.

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Io. This might be a metallic moon and we can’t detect what’s under that surface.

Earth has metal in the crust but not like this. The mothership definitely has a parking spot up there.

Adding to the curiosity of Io is it’s apparent lack of craters. Since Io has very little atmosphere (like our moon) we have no explanation for the lack of craters on the surface. What is stopping the meteors from hitting Io? Or what is on the surface that can remove traces of impact?


 

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George Loves Cookies Cookies

Great episode of The Cleveland Show where Cleveland’s mother Cookie, fed up with years of neglect from her husband, takes off with George Clinton – first aboard the mothership, then aboard the tour bus. She goes 20 rounds with George before her man forms a funk group to win her back!

Funny stuff. Cleveland show is a great show that just got cancelled. The first 3 seasons were pretty excellent. It’s on Netflix and maybe Hulu, but not on Youtube.

Bernie Worrell Achieves Elevation

If you know this site you know I’m a huge fan of Bernie Worrell. I think he’s one of the finest keyboardists ever – legendary – of all time – because of his note selection, his melodic composition, and the playful joy that he does not suppress in his playing. Bernie seemingly has done everything and played with everyone in his 40+ years as a musician and recording artist.

But there’s something primal about the keyboard that he never did until now – release a record consisting of just him and a piano. That’s right – The Wizard of Woo, the master of the Moog, Aladdin of the Arp – the man that is as responsible for us looking to space for inspiration as Star Wars, has never released even a single song of just him and his piano.

Funkateers – marvel in the primal rawness of it all – you ever wonder what Bernie’s fingers really sounds like? You ever wonder if those melodies, lines, even his playing style translates to the grand?

Here’s the new album, and it’s heavy: Elevation: Upper Air – Bernie Worrell – Solo Piano. He does a number of classics, including one of his own, and you really get to hear the genius player like never before.

Every note, every line, every touch is nearly perfect. Bernie on a piano is a beautiful listen. Search your music service to see if it’s available. I’m going to try to pick it up on hi-def audio to hear that whole piano!

 

Foley For Senate

Love this guy, great musician, great talent, does his own thing his way. Don’t sleep on Foley, he might be one of the most underrated players out there.

Foley can play practically anything and has gobs of game when it comes to the funk. He’s currently playing drums for George Clinton’s live show, but he’s also known as the badass who played bass AND guitar for Miles Davis!

All in all one of my favorites, and he keeps a nice low profile too, which I can dig. Go Foley!

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Live P Always Satisfies

George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars came through my town last Friday night and I managed to grab some tickets right before the sell-out.

Like many times in the past, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the show, given that the lineup continues to change and two of George’s main partners – Garry Shider and Belita Woods – have recently passed, living on the road to the end.

George himself recently went through a metamorphosis, cutting his hair and changing his wardrobe. Rainbows and bedsheets have been replaced by a classic gentleman’s cut, hat, and silver suit. Nice stuff and he looked good.

Like many times in the past, the show exceeded my expectations and I had a funky good time.

The musicians were amazing, the catalog sounded as good as ever, and the setlist even had a few surprises: They rocked on a new arrangement of “Stuffs and Things” for a wonderful 10+ minutes, interspersed with “I Bet You”, and lots of old Clones launched to P-Funk heaven. I was one of them.

Here’s some video from last year that’s similar to what I experienced the other night. If George comes near your abode (and he will) make sure to catch this act as many times as possible. Nothing lasts forever.

Damn Right He’s Back

This dude that went by just D’angelo flew up the charts in the mid-90’s doing a seriously slow and funky, even guttural soul music, sitting mainly behind an electric piano while being pelted by praise, panties, and eventually grammys. I remember skeptics back then calling it “funk lite” or otherwise diminishing his talent behind the orgasmic screams of his female fans. I thought the guy was an amazing talent from the moment I heard him play his rhodes.

He did a very funky 2nd lp (“Voodoo”) that ultimately produced no hits, started to play around with his sex symbol image, generally did his own thing against the pressures of the hip-hop/r&b scene he was the new prince of, and somehow dropped off the scene. There were gossip press -spread rumors about all the usual suspects – drugs, ego, fame – which to me usually translates to “dude was too regular to wanna stay famous”.

The internet was taking over entertainment and D’angelo was dropping off the scene. I always admired him for that, and patiently have been awaiting the day he decided to take it to the stage again. About a decade passed and now we have this.


D’angelo is not only back, he has picked up a few new skills on his journey! Enjoy this amazing P-Funk cover filmed a few months ago, where he and his new band manage to pay homage to the funkiest funk ever. D himself channels two legends at the same time, doing the memories of Glen Goins and Garry Shider proud.

…and the little guitar love interlude in the last 2 minutes even had me going whoa damn D!

Rare P-Funk Ditty

This one didn’t make it out whenever they made it, but ended up on one of the rarities collections: Check it out, it’s “Stink Finger”, one of the smoothest little p-funk jams i’ve heard in a bit.

This track is part the new playlist I’m making of P-Funk rarities and randoms. We’ll have a gallery on WFNK.com soon, but until then check it at the tube: Rare a P’s

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A Rare Mix of Pure Funk

So this is one of Junie Morrison’s best and worst jams, and I actually don’t have the original LP so I had never heard this mix before. It’s the fuller extended mix, plus, the safe for work/radio vocal mix, wowza!

Turn it up to hear some brilliant Ohio funk, most of it done by Junie himself on Westbound in 1976, a little bit before he joined the P-Funk gang.


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Record Review: Funkadelic – Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On

[originally published on WFNK.com on October 1, 1999]

funkadelic-ontheverge_1024x1024 Album Review by Coffee

Funkadelic, in my opinion is the GREATEST “black rock band” of all time. But let us put that in perspective. I am using the words- black, rock and band there. Obviously, almost every member in Parliament and Funkadelic was/is African American. And I use the term ‘rock’ somewhat specifically because I am targeting harder edged material when I am citing rock music.

For instance, The Temptations are probably one of the greatest soul groups of all-time. True, they may have had some more agressive and psychedelic spurts here and there. But the Temps are known for their squeaky clean and rhythmic doo-wop over anything else that they ever created. So let us consider the career of Funkadelic as a funk-rock band just for reference.

Like their siamese sister band, Parliament, Funkadelic has had an illustrious and colorful career in changing the concept of black music. George Clinton played with legions of musicians, so I won’t even try to name every Funkadelic member. Here is the general list of artists who appeared on the album at hand, “Standing On the Verge Of Getting It On.” Praise thee-

funkadelic-standingGary Bronson: Drums
Ron Brylowski: Guitar
Eddie Hazel: Guitar
Jimmy Calhoun: Bass
George Clinton: Vocals/Album Producer
Raymond Davis: Vocals
R. Tiki Fulwood: Percussion, Vocals
Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins: Vocals
Tyrone Lampkin: Drums
Cordell Mosson: Bass, Vocals
Leon Patillo: Piano
Gary Shider: Guitar, Vocals
Grady Thomas: Vocals
Bernie Worrell: Keyboards, Vocals

Standing On the Verge Breakdown-

Intro- Some of the funniest first few seconds that I have ever heard on a record begin side One and Side Two of this album. My translation of intro 1: Our world can bite us in the ass if we don’t watch it! Check yourself and correct yourself. For Side two intro: Like peas of pod we’ll fit together until I introduce to you the cosmic highway to my mind.

Track 1: Red Hot Mama

– An Eddie Hazel guitar signature song and one of Funkadelic’s most successful singles ever. They hit the mark on this one. It is great when psychedelia sounds clean and cohesive like this. You can hear the layers working one another just as easily as they disappear into a sonic stew. If ever there was a funky song by P-Funk (without proclaiming funk’s name first), this is it. The story is of a fast woman from swamp country. She claims super diva status with her sexuality. You can sense brothers copping a jive talking session about it on the avenue.

Track 2: Alice In My Fantasies

-Wow. The thought of a blaxploitation version of “Alice In Wonderland” with this Hendrix-esquian echo funk sure sounds good to me. This song is on fire with acid headed freedom eruptions throughout. It is obvious that The Red Hot Chili Peppers were inspired by tracks like this ahead-of-its time motivator.

Track 3: I’ll Stay

-This R&B is sensual ebb and flow. It’s graceful romance deserves as much recogntion and cred as anything put out by the Temps or the Tops. Let Bernie W. and the rest take your head out to play with this smooth and slow jam. Making love music has never been so greasy and out of this world at the same time.

Track 4: Sexy Ways

-Disco dancefloor-doowop pick up lines in the groove. The funk has grabbed the soul of a thousand booties. The lust continues. Go ahead guys, do the first date thing- buy a flower, open her door and offer your coat in times of need. Then pop this track on in the den if you want her to know what you’ve really been thinking about.

standing_fullinsideTrack 5: Standing On the Verge of Getting It On

-The optimism and good intentions are offered here with absolute freedom. I have always thought that this song sounds like a more adventurous James Brown. This classic is still performed by Parliament-Funkadelic at concerts. If you can’t loosen up to this ode to the people, then your ass is in a coma. The harmonizing of the vocals and the lyrics see to symbolize the need for unsion and acceptance that is inherent to human nature. The funk is an aura of emotion that makes standing together part of the whole routine. It is not ironic that one of P-Funk’s most contagious groove has such an invitational message.

Track 6, Jimmy’s Got A Little Bit of Bitch In Him

-Hendrix is played on and quoted in this satirical look at his fashion sense and zoned out character. Jimi doesn’t take it too seriously watching P-Funk shows from up above. Parliament-Funkadelic’s attire and personality make Jimi look like Nat King Cole. Ok maybe that is a bit severe…

Track 7, Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts

George Clinton preaches spoken word funk over one of Eddie Hazel’s soul-searching psychedelic journeys that transcend emotion.

This is my 2nd favorite Funk album EVER. If you don’t own it- buy it now. Do not pass F, give up $15 or so and read those outrageous Sir Lleb liner notes when you open the merchandise. Check out the album artwork and vote for a virtual reality event to mirror its vision.

Peace and Funk,
Coffee

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A Chat with Keyboard Genius Bernie Worrell

Originally published on WFNK.com 08/01/1999

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During a heatwave sweeping the eastern united states in July of 1999, I got music legend Bernie Worrell (1944-2016) on the phone for a candid conversation about his new band The WOO Warriors, the old P-Funk days, and his current business dealings with George Clinton.

Raz: Hey Bernie, how ya been?

Bernie: Not too good in this heat. Other than that fine.

I understand. It’s probably what, about a hundred out there now, huh?

It’s a 100 to 105. We just had a power surge that just whacked the computers and stuff just before you called.

Uh oh. Yeah it went down when I was on the phone with Judie (Ed. note: Judie Worrell is Bernie’s wife and manager). We could use some AC ourselves. This is killin me! Let’s start out back in the day. Can you give me three words that describe P-Funk?

(laughing) wild, crazy, guys.

Alright… I can live with that. (laughs) Obviously our readers are funkateers. Do you feel that the entire movement that was P-Funk, with all the sounds, vibes, characters – those wild crazy guys – do you feel that it was underrated, overrated, or are you pretty happy with the way that it’s been received over the years?

People don’t really know a lot of what went down and what it took in blood, sweat, and tears to be a part of that whole thing. I don’t think there is enough credit given to a lot of the members. But on the other hand, we are known all over the world. People know who P-Funk is. It was my first time going to Puerto Rico a couple of weeks ago with my group they had stuff down there. I didn’t know it – I kinda figured maybe Puerto Rico, but even Argentina and places like that, they know our stuff. I would say I’m thankful, ya know, I’m pretty satisfied for how it is, but not completely satisfied, but then who is? (laughs).

When you made the move in the early 80’s to touring with the Talking Heads, what struck you as the most obvious change in the scene, as opposed to being out with P-Funk?

Didn’t get beat as much! (laughs) It was a cleaner business unit. There was a lot of things I taught them. A lot of things that their manager at the time Gary Kerfers used to come to me and ask me. They were P-Funk fans and Gary was also. I don’t know if a lot of people know it, but George Clinton gave Chris the idea – we’ll he didn’t give them the idea – they had the idea to break off and do something different, which was the Tom-Tom Club – and they got it from him. He was studying what was happening. They approached George about whether they should do this and he said “yeah”. And that’s when they did Tom-Tom club and all that stuff.


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Of all the amazing musicians you’ve worked with over the years, did any of your collaborations particularly surprise you? Did someone bring something to the table that you just weren’t expecting?

No. (laughs). No, because they are like me – they do what they do well.

How’s the new record “Free Agent” going? Any hopes of getting that into the record stores in the states?

Well if we can work out a distribution deal with a couple of people we are talking to – Warren Haynes from Gov’t Mule, his company being one of them.

I got that a couple of months ago and it is a really good record. I definitely hope it gets out. We’ll be doing a review of it in this issue as well.

The live new years eve one?

Yeah I got that one as well. “Free Agent” is pretty amazing.

Oh thank you.

I also caught a WOO Warriors show a few months back and not only was the musicianship amazing but the setlist seemed a bit more varied than WOO Warriors shows of the past. Would you prefer to play even more of your solo work or are you happy with the mix of old and new?

I like the mix – I can’t play all of any one thing, I get bored quick. I have to move from space to space, to different places cause it’s no challenge. It’s boring to me with just one set thing. I have to try it. I get disinterested cause I can play it automatically, and I care about it. (laughs)

Ya know, when we have to go from this genre to something else then it’s interesting cause we can stretch it out a little more. And I’m teaching at the same time, ya know, showing people “this type of thing you do this with, and you mix this in with that”. I like a lot of the P-Funk stuff that Clinton doesn’t do. People are always asking me ‘why don’t you play this? How come George doesn’t do this? Because he’s not able to, and we are. A lot of those songs that didn’t make it on B-sides or A-sides are great songs, and people love them so it still makes it fun, instead of playing the same old thing over and over.

Are there any old songs that you are looking forward to reworking and revisiting?

Right, that’s what made that last show you saw in Cleveland different, cause a couple of surprises were in there (laughs). That was some of the old stuff.

I also saw you guys in New York when you blew the power out of the stage!

Yeah well the power had been blown out the night before by another group, so they told us. Come to find out that they lied to us, it had blown out 3 weeks earlier.

Well you guys were loud enough at the show I saw a few months ago I’m surprised you didn’t blow out the power there!

(laughs) Yeah!

You guys have been traveling the land for a few years now as the WOO Warriors, and you’ve put out several solo records in the 90’s – are you at all upset at the lack of record label and radio attention?

Yes, but uh, blank them! Because we are getting ready to go into a new age with the middleman being cut out and more money to the artists, and the heck with em! All we need is the distribution. Then if they come after us I’ll say no until they give us the deal we want.

On that note we’ll do our part and make sure to put a link right to your site from ours so that everyone can order that CD.


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Hold on a minute….

(Bernie has to take another call. Turns out it’s George Clinton. I let him go for a few minutes and then call back)

Bernie – hey, you got a sec to finish up?

Yeah, yeah – George Clinton is on the other phone, I might have to say something, go ahead, we can talk right now.

Actually that’s an odd coincidence – I was just gonna ask about the record deal announced with you and George and if you had any more details on that and how that came about?

I can’t tell you all of it cause I don’t know all the details. I know they wanted me to co-produce his record and now I come to find out that there is a breach of contract cause there is actually gonna be 2 CD’s now, and we didn’t know about that – we just found out. And they want me to do the Woodstock thing and I’m not doing it until they do what I want. They still owe me money from March for some session work. That’s what George is calling about today, himself. He’s trying to talk to Judie right now. That’s why she was going on and on, because I don’t give a shit. I don’t care if we do Woodstock or not. (Ed Note: George worked with Mammoth Records to patch things up with Bernie, resulting in Bernie Worrell & The WOO Warriors performing at Woodstock ’99 and Bernie appearing as a “special guest” with George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars)

I wouldn’t want to have the job of trying to talk Judie down!

Yeah well, they got the job (laughing). And it’s coming from me – they think it’s all her but she’s speakin for me. I can’t be spoken to once I get in a mood – I say “Fuck em”. (laughs). She’s tellin him now: ‘George, you know better than anyone that when he gets in a mood he don’t care’. So don’t get me started. I guess that’s what he’s trying to talk to her about now. He don’t sound too good, but you know, he’s tired.

Let’s move to something a little more positive. WFNK.com originates from Cleveland so we keep an eye on the happenings at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. You have been inducted into the Hall of Fame and I got to see the whole P-Funk display down there…

Did they put my clothes up yet?

Ya know, I haven’t been down there this year so I don’t know if they put them up yet. I was down there when they had the wax figures up of George and Bootsy. I don’t think they made the Bootsy one tall enough!

(laughing) Maybe they ran out of money!

Yeah they ran out of wax! Some musicians have come out against the Hall of Fame, saying that having a building to honor Rock and Roll goes against the attitude of the music. Do you have any feelings on that and is there anything you would change about the induction process?

I heard that you have people vote on who gets in, like Bruce Springsteen personally said that he voted, he was part of it. I’m sent something every year to check off who I would like to see inducted. I don’t know what they mean about the building – I think it is nice to have a facility where people can see the past. However I think more money should be put into use for helping the musicians after they’ve reached a certain age, and with their record deals, and the whole lot. Alright, we got the glory and whatnot, but what about financial help and cases of keeping people working? There’s a lot of different things they can do.

Like some sort of union or benefits package?

Yes. The building is nice but it ain’t feedin’ anybody. Well it’s feedin’ them! (laughs)

It ain’t feeding anyone in this town either. In fact it’s taking tax money away in this town.

See? You’re right. They could do benefit concerts for all kinds of things, from farmers to handicapped people, you know? Make programs up. Make the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame worldwide and help Greenpeace, help the endangered species. Put on shows, outdoor festivals. They could do a lot – a lot more I mean. Three hundred dollars for a dinner? Blank that! Dinner should be free.

I understand. So what are you up to now – what kind of projects are you into now that you are at liberty to talk about?

Yeah – still trying to finish the WOO Warriors studio CD. We just came back from Puerto Rico with the WOO Warriors, they loved that. They want us back. We still got the ongoing Clinton situation, which George is on the phone right now as I told you. And we’ll be working on getting the college circuit thing together. There’s the Gov’t Mule situation where we might be working in conjunction with them out of their office, so Judie will have some help, and I guess more production with Clinton.

To be announced, huh?

To be announced.

Sounds good. Well I thank you for your time, I know I caught you at a busy time.

It’s kinda stressful right now.

And the heat aint helpin, I’m sure.

As a matter of fact, Disney Corporation is George’s backer, so what’s the problem with the money?

Yeah you would think that if anyone had some money to spend it would be Disney.

Yeah, okay man, take care.