How Parliament and Funkadelic Brought the 70s to a Freaky Climax

Parliament Funkadelic

In 1979, George Clinton led Parliament-Funkadelic through its second commercially successful year through numerous album releases, a grand concert spectacle based on the then-current Motor Booty Affair album, numerous personnel changes and a restructuring of his business operations. Both bands closed the year  — and the decade — with Groovalistic platters designed to RESCUE DANCE MUSIC FROM THE BLAHS! In other words, “In Funk We Trust!”

Related: “To Hell with Concept Albums: Parliament Did A Concept Series”


[Release date: September 21st, 1979]

Picking up on the militaristic theme initiated on One Nation Under A Groove, Uncle Jam and the Funkadelic army dive foot first into recruitment overdrive. Assuming the position of Anti-Disco Dance Warriors, Uncle Jam opens with “Freak Of The Week,” celebrating the liberated attitude of a disco-loving mama (a big freak if you will) that ain’t into that “one big up and down.” She ain’t havin’ it. Newly recruited bassist Jeff Bunn and drummer Dennis Chambers help to anchor a hypnotic Funk groove that takes her to the point where she gets off.

The tracks “Uncle Jam” (with Bootsy Collins on bass), and “Field Maneuvers” (showcasing the supreme mash-up of Jerome Brailey, Eddie Hazel, and Billy Bass Nelson) are obvious stand-out performances. But the obvious shining moment of this disc is the 15-minute masterpiece, “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” Featuring the combined talents of Thrill Sergeant Dr. Funkenstein, vocalist Garry Shider, keyboardist/arranger Junie Morrison, operatic vocalist Jessica Cleaves and Phillippe Wynne (formerly of the Spinners), and the Funkadelic vocal assault and Funkatition team, Knee Deep takes its rightful place as one of the baddest Funk jams ever created by humans. Unsurprisingly, the record-buying public took “Knee Deep” to Number One on the Billboard R&B/Soul singles charts. In a bittersweet manner, “Knee Deep” would be the last hit of the P-Funk era. It is no surprise that it would top the charts at a time when one of the first Rap hits, “Rapper’s Delight” (also clocking in at 15 minutes), would help to take Black music in a completely different direction.


[Release date: November 20th, 1979]

This chapter of the Parliament saga deals with the Big Bang (the one that kicked off the Universe), and the 8 billion tales that go along with it. The arch-nemesis of Star Child, Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk leads the Unfunkables towards the Black Hole with the intention of turning Star Child into a jackass!

The album concept was as nonsensical and delightful as previous Parliament albums and the grooves contained therein go a long way in helping Parliament maintain its title of Master Funksters. They even dared to venture into Disco with the track “Party People”. The release of this track proved to be ill-timed, as Disco would see its demise by the end of summer 1979. The album’s second track “Theme From The Black Hole” would fare better with the record-buying public, peaking at Number Eight on the R&B singles charts.

While Gloryhallastoopid and Uncle Jam met with mixed reviews upon release, both albums have experienced a major reevaluation due to their immense influence in the Rap genre. Rappers such as Digital Underground, Rodney O, and Joe Cooley, Del The Funky Homosapien, and De La Soul, have turned various tracks from both albums into major hits (many of those hits were bigger than the songs they sampled). Both albums were certified gold (500,000 copies sold) and received heavy concert tour support starting in the fall of 1979 and running until spring 1980. Those tours would include a lengthy stay at New York’s own Apollo Theater, with the first run transpiring in October 1979 for two weeks. A second run started at the end of February 1980 in the hopes of bringing in revenue for the struggling legendary venue which had fallen into financial despair during 1979.

Related: “1988: Rap’s Golden Year”

By the end of 1979, Parliament-Funkadelic had altered the course of Black popular music while also supplying inspiration for the up-and-coming Rap and Hip Hop movements that would take center stage in the next decade. While their presence in the music industry would diminish in the 1980s, their influence would only expand not only into Rap but also into alternative rock, new wave, and electronica. Proving once again that Funk ain’t goin’ nowhere. It’s forever comin’!

-Tim Kinley

Photo: George Clinton (left) of Parliament. (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty)

PS — There’s never NOT a good time to climb aboard the Mothership, as this post from 2019 clearly shows!

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1 comment on “How Parliament and Funkadelic Brought the 70s to a Freaky Climax

  1. Yeah man all eras must come to an end and the P went out on a high one (in the tale end if you know what I mean). First concert I attended was The Black Hole in spring of 1980. It was a very loose performance without The Dr but still nothing but a party. I had NO IDEA of what Funkadelic really was. Like a lot of younger fans, we’d been introduced to the band thru One Nation and Uncle Jam. And of course we knew Parliament. But when they came out and launched right into “Alice in My Fantasies” my jaw dropped. What the flunk is this?!?!?
    Parliament came next and performed Big Bang Theory and my head was bobbing u and down and hips were shaking. But to say I was bewildered would have been an understatement. Shortly after that is when my research into old funkadelia kicked into high gear and I tracked down and embraced the underground Funkadelic discs.

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