George Clinton was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina. He grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey, where he worked in a barbershop straightening hair and formed a musical group, the Parliaments. After moving to Detroit, Michigan, Clinton and the Parliaments had a minor hit, “(I Just Wanna) Testify,” in 1967.
Following a lawsuit over the band's name, Clinton formed not one but two new groups—the legendary Parliament and Funkadelic (known collectively as P-Funk)—with many overlapping players. Parliament was more commercial; Funkadelic was outlandish, with musicians wearing diapers, Clinton emerging from a coffin, and plenty of references to sex and drugs. The bands merged in the 1970s, and their concerts, featuring spectacles such as giant spaceships landing onstage, became a major attraction.
For all his eccentricity, Clinton was an influential spokesman for African Americans; his song “Chocolate City” (1975 expresses in terms both witty and poignant the ...
A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.