George Clinton: Watch Your Sandwich Around This Funk Icon

A former colleague of mine has a sandwich on his wall with a bite taken out of it.

To the casual onlooker, it's weird. For him, it's the ultimate piece of music memorabilia. Better than an autograph, splintered guitar neck or piece of concert-worn clothing, this collectible is laced with DNA. So when funk icon George Clinton -- now in his 70s but still performing with unbridled vigor and zest -- eventually returns to the mothership in the sky, he can be cloned.

The clones of Dr. Funkenstein will then walk the Earth as one nation under a groove, and funk will go on forever -- just as it always has for Clinton.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic is scheduled to perform Friday, May 25, at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale.

It's a kind of strange story. The bite showed that multi-colored haired Clinton was missing a lower tooth, and Dave wisely had a photo snapped of him with Clinton, sandwich still in hand. It serves some kind of weird truth that the sandwich on the wall (I never touched it, but I could only imagine the mold raging inside), indeed was snacked on by Clinton.

This leads to the question: Why did Dave bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to a funk concert in the first place?

Well, Dave was a quirky guy with a face made for radio -- and, conveniently, an exceptional radio voice. He worked for a now-defunct (and thus nameless) syndicated radio program and regularly interviewed musicians for the program. The legendary funkster Clinton was in town with some permutation of one of his similar but differently named backing bands -- P-Funk All-Stars, Funkadelic, Parliament, or Parliament Funkadelic (the band backing Clinton's utilizing for his May 25 gig at Talking Stick Resort) -- and Dave had arranged a post-concert interview with Mr. C.

To hear Dave tell it, it wasn't his intention all along to give Clinton the sandwich, but that he'd been out of the office all day and it was left over from a lunch he never managed to eat. When he reached into his bag for the tape recorder, Clinton saw the sandwich and, maybe thinking Dave was from the catering truck (Clinton was especially wacked out and maggot-brained in the early Aughts), grabbed it and took a bite.

After the photo, he handed it back to Dave -- a scary offering coming from a man with an album called Hey, Man, Smell My Finger. Maybe the PB&J was just too ordinary and not funky enough for the man who helped define the modern funk era. Clinton, who actually was inspired to a musical career by doo-wop music and worked as a Motown songwriter (somewhat unsuccessfully), later combined rock, jazz, soul, and some of that doo-wop into a chart-conquering, dance floor-filling cosmic slop that thundered on the downside while searing the heavens with Hendrix-inspired guitar licks.

Clinton, whose music is heavily cited as an influence and routinely sampled by rap artists, and who produced the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Freaky Styley, also immortalized himself by playing concerts of epic proportions. I once heard a bootleg taper at a concert complain about the extra tapes and battery packs he had to carry because, "You know, you just can't predict how long that mother will play for." True. With Clinton concerts listeners are either all in for a motor-booty affair, or in for a long night.

Dave, with his sandwich neatly framed and displayed for the world like the Mona Lisa (though people aren't lining up to see it and there is no bulletproof glass) is all in for life -- perhaps not even realizing the future survival of funk in a post-Clinton world rests in his hands.

George would probably offer a gap-toothed smile at that one.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic is scheduled to perform Friday, May 25, at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.