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Five things you didn't know about George Clinton

The p-funk legend talks space ships, asparagus and tripping his damn ass off

© William Thoren

A strong contender for funkiest human on the planet, 74-year-old George Clinton is still getting down with his long-standing psychedelic groove troupes: Parliament and Funkadelic. Once he was known for costumes and hairstyles that were just as wild as his music, and a lifestyle of wide-eyed partying that rivalled any rock star of the time. He even used to perform onstage in front of a giant metal ‘spacecraft’, known as the P-Funk Mothership. He’s more clean-living these days, but as we find out, this inimitable musical legend still has plenty of surprises in store.

1. In his partying days, he knew more than one way to get high.

‘I was in Boston doing an interview and I could see some apartments out of the window. I suddenly remembered running across the rooftops of those apartments in the late ’60s, tripping my ass off. As people were asking me questions I was looking out the window and thinking, “Damn, how the hell did I get up there?” But I didn’t fall off – those were the days when you could actually fly! We did some crazy stuff back then.’

2. These days he’s strictly a man of the cloth.

‘Suits became my drug once I cleaned up. The suits and the clothes became my new “hairdo” [as a fashion focus]. I had a lot of money left over – when you stop doing drugs you become rich! So I bought a lot of suits, but then I lost 80 pounds and I had to get a whole new wardrobe again, because all the suits were way too big for me.’

3. …though his hobbies are still pretty wild.

‘I’m a country boy, so in the springtime I go picking wild asparagus. People think that’s weird, coming from me. As it grows in the wild, you have to drive out somewhere and stop your car by the side of the road, which is illegal. I’m the only one in my bands that knows what wild asparagus looks like. I also love fishing – I once I caught a 350-pound marlin. It was huge, about 15 feet long. It took me an hour and a half to wrestle it out of the water.’

4. People really value his company.

‘The Prince of Bali gave me a gold ring with a precious stone in, worth about $40,000. It was a few weeks before he got assassinated in a coup. He gave it to me in Australia at his wife’s birthday, as a present for going to the party. My wife had the ring for a while – she got it chopped down and reset, and lost the stone on stage. But she had it redone and it looks good. It was a medicine ring, and the Prince gave it to me for protection, when he needed it himself.’

5. If he had an actual spaceship, he’d go to the Dog Star. Not the boozer in Brixton, mind.

‘I’d go to Sirius. I think that’s where we [Parliament and Funkadelic] came from originally. There’d be people funking all over the place, like a pack of wild dogs jamming.’

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