P-Funk and Earth Wind and Fire

Rock and Roll has seen various musical rivalries in its almost 70 year existence. Music lovers have always been pushed to take sides. In the 1960s, you were either a Beatles fan or a Rolling Stones fan. In the 1980s, you were team Michael Jackson or team Prince.

In the 1970s, as Funk music became the new standard in Black popular music, a fierce rivalry developed between two R&B/Funk titans: Parliament-Funkadelic and Earth, Wind, and Fire. A rivalry born out of a pivotal gig in the nation’s capital.

P-Funk and EWF shared the bill at a performance at the DC Armory in 1972. EWF was the only opening act. EWF leader Maurice White and lead vocalist Phillip Bailey both reference this event in their respective autobiographies. Both acknowledge that P-Funk emerged triumphant to the degree that EWF went back into the studio afterward to tighten their own musical chops. The band as a whole made a promise to themselves that they would never let another band blow them out of the water the way that P-Funk did ever again.

That event would inadvertently lead to a friendly competition that would ultimately produce some of the boldest R&B, Soul, and Funk from both bands. In particular, the period between 1975 and 1978 would see both bands producing their most genre-defining work.


EWF blasted onto the national music scene with an album that many forget was the soundtrack to a movie starring Harvey Keitel. It becomes their first and only studio release to top the album charts in April 1975. They almost have the Funk game sewn up until Parliament releases Mothership Connection in December. It goes on to be regarded as the definitive Funk album of the entire decade. Like That’s The Way.…the Mothership album goes platinum.


While released almost two years apart, both albums are quickly consumed by the R&B/Funk-loving public. Gratitude benefits from more radio exposure than Parliament Live.


Both albums showcase bands that no longer need to prove they’re bad. They both know they’re bad. Their individual brands of greatness bring the competition to a fever pitch.


The competition comes to a head when EWF releases what is probably their most well-crafted release, All In All. It’s impeccable and meticulous in every way. How was the U.S. Funk Mob going to respond? By dropping Funkentelechy in November of the same year, an album that contained only six tracks that take the entire Funk genre into bold new territory. Flash Light goes on to yield massive influence over Funk, and then later new wave and Rap music.

The next album released by EWF was a greatest hits album. A move you don’t make when you’re trying to vie for musical supremacy. P-Funk took full advantage by releasing what many consider to be their “Man on the Moon” moment: One Nation Under A Groove.

-Tim Kinley

Photo: Earth Wind and Fire, 1982 (Chris Hakkens, CC-BY-SA, via Wikimedia Commons)

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Tim Kinley is a longtime disciple of the Mothership Connection and spends way too much time copping duplicate copies of Parliament-Funkadelic albums. Documentaries, CD compilations and other Funky projects also distract him from paying utility bills, which results in his cell phone bill not being paid on time.

47 comments on “P-Funk and Earth Wind and Fire

  1. Nice. Personally, I find that I can only handle EWF a little bit at a time. After a few songs it all starts to sound the same to me. The soaring falsetto vocals, crisp horn charts with an Afro Cuban beat. Bad for sure but too slick, formulatic pop. I never got that with PF.

    • It’s called contrasting styles,one is a funk band and the other is a fusion band

      • Oh absolutely. Both bands were bad ass. I feel that EWF was more crossover and designed to get pop hits.

        • Beth Jeannine Walker

          Dr. Funkenstein has been my Primary care physician since 1975, he has only elevated his status with the O-Funk Earth Tour in 1977 (Double “LP”) still one of my top five favorite albums.

  2. I can handle EWF. In small doses. The problem I have is it doesn’t hold up after repeated listenings. It all starts sounding the same to me. The soaring falsettos, crisp, high treble horn charts and Afro Cuban beat. Slick, formulatic and designed to go pop. I never got that with PF.

  3. All this competition between groups did help make the music between the groups better. Both groups released albums that were great, with one being just as great as the other. When I put a record on the turntable, Parliament goes on before EWF. Parliament’s music takes me to my happy place faster than EWF. I do own complete collections of both groups.

  4. Call, I have both collections of parliament ,funkadelic ,Earth wind and fire saw Earth, Wind & Fire three times live in concert .parliament funkadelic’s over 30 times live ,would not trade the music for no one love both of them.

  5. Michael Pugh


  6. For me its EWF their level of sophistication is impeccable with dynamic range as well as for parliament funkadelic its all just funk a one trick pony

    • One trick pony? That is absolutely false. C’mon….

      • I know. Pretty austounding. Man I could play him some P-Funk songs where he wouldn’t even know it was them. They’ve covered it all: folk, C&W, jazz, fusion, metal, gospel, edm, ambient and everything else. Man George Clinton and company have covered it all. One trick pony? No way he’s being serious.

    • See, it feels just the opposite to me. After a few listens, EWF starts to wear on my ears. Just personal preference I guess. Sure, their music is more accessible for a broader audience, its designed and crafted that way for a reason. It’s finely tuned pop. PF on the other hand is the underground gut-bucket gritty funk I long for. The late Larry Harris, co-founder of Casablanca Records once described it as “almost completely unmarketable” as Clinton had “carved out an exclusive market niche that he called P-funk”. I don’t find myself going back to listen for the intricacies of the music on say “September” or “Lets Groove” like I can do for a “Sir Nose D’Void Of Funk B3M” or “Rumpofsteelskin” of which I still hear new sounds in to this day, some 45 years after the fact. I know nutty right?! I don’t know how to describe it both bands are bad-azzed. Just different strokes.

  7. EWF my focus music… (head to sky,devotion,ect)music /message thing. P-Funk, straight party /get high and trip music.(too many to list) both my all time faves, just different sides of the coin.

  8. Will Jackson

    Love both groups forever. Glenn Goings’ vocals does it for me. He was the singing voice of PFunk. Bernie was a classical trained keyboardist. I have seen both groups performed, if I had to pick one, I would take Funk to Heaven in ‘77

  9. Kelvin Little

    Stop it nobody can mess with the P Funk. No competition to the Funk mob. Ewf has good songs but they ain’t funkin like that good P. Let’s take to the stage says it all for me..

    • James Bridges Jr

      Man.. PFunk(to include ALL of their adjacents projects, i.e. Bootsy, The Horny Horns, The Brides, etc..) at its peak just checks every box for me.. The musicianship was the bomb. The singing was the bomb. The RAW funk was the bomb. They were soulful, spiritual, sexy, futuristic, funny, experimental, smart, deep, and sooo confident! Plenty of bands were experimenting with substances and creating good music, BUT everything PFunk made was so doggon satisfyingly DIFFERENT from everyone else’s, in my opinion. I’m forever hooked. Mad love and respect to all the other funk bands, but sheeeesh.. “Let’s take it to the stage, sucka!”

  10. Kelvin Little


  11. Larry Joe Rogers

    Man talk about a tale of two different things of great music. Both have dynamic vision in their music. But as much as I hate to admit it…. That Mothership Connection TOUR was genius!! Earth WIND AND FIRE 🔥 concerts are legendary, especially when Maurice White was leading the charge.

  12. My ears are still ringing from last night! Saw EWF in Cincinnati! Love Parliament and EWF. People had and will always have their personal tastes. Micheal and Prince are completely different sounds, both good, but I can say that we kids as groups didn’t chose one camp over the other in the 80s, like it was M.J. against Prince. M.J. was the king untouchable, and everyone knew it. Prince was his own thing, experimental and loved to use symbolism in everything he did. Prince was also one of the best guitarists on the planet. You had your favorites, but if you were a top 40 fan in the 80s you just listened as it all rotated in and out.

  13. Michael A Young

    Although EWF can put you in a groove, nobody can match the efunky sounds of Parliment/Funkadelic. I mean even their spinoff groups such as Bootsy, Brides of Funkenstein were slammin.

    CASE CLOSED!!!!!

    • Also, EWF has 100 million records sold, and every 1 minute and 30 seconds an EWF song is played somewhere in the world. EWF just did it better!


    • Oh, and let’s not forget, EWF has also sold over 90 million records and every 1 min. and 30 seconds an EWF song is played somewhere in the world. FACTS!!!!

      EWF is a superior group and simply did it better. Not even close!

      • Horny Hornes

        Jim, Frank, and Poi must be the same person… lol The Elements had more crossover appeal, but still The Mob was/is respected and sampled by many rap artist around the world. Onstage I loved em both but P-Funk did it better. Facts!

    • Richard Johnson

      Dear Poi, First of all: 2 different bands (overall) regardless of any form of competition. Both are awesomely talented with their style, and I like them both! I remember this particular point and time so I feel the same way about it today as I did then: NO COMPARISONS. However, I will say that factually, EWF has more fans, more radio play, and obvious current longevity (still going), worldwide! As far as albums sold, I think that your numbers are off. In closing: Tell me where is P-FUNK today?

    • Record sales are never a true indicator of musical superiority. By your logic, ABBA is a way better band than EWF due to record sales. Is something you believe?

  15. Rick Trotman

    Yo Tim Kinley, good to hear your well. I met you through our good friend Rob(P-funk) Pinkney. He passed, but will always be in our P-funk hearts. Stay well.

  16. Lee St. John

    Loved both groups. Never saw them as competing against one another. Superlative music. I saw both groups. Awesome talent.

  17. Mary Ann

    Earth Wind and Fire are the group of the people no one can surpass them. I’m a fan that truly enjoys their music through and through

    • Larry Mccoy

      Reminds me of Motown and Stax records. More whites like EWF and Motown. Clinton created music for funkateers. All in the marketing approach. All great music by black genius.

    • You should probably read Maurice White and Phillip Bailey’s books. You’ll be a bit more enlightened.

  18. The masses have decided that EWF is the most digestible as viewed in mainstream commercials and movies through 2023. EWF has a more polished and refined listening experience while PFunk is more coarse and attention focused experience. One can enjoy Funk and R&B in its own sphere. For me, it the horns. TK bio sounds a bit biased. EWF forever.

    • Let me be clear on something. I will always have major love and respect for both bands. Obviously, between the two, P-Funk will always represent the center of my consciousness. This is one reason why I avoided making this article adversarial. That being said, the story I shared shows the influence that P-Funk had on EWF. In other words, P-Funk made EWF a better band. Something that Maurice (if he were still alive) and Phillip will tell you themselves.

  19. Mark Jackson

    I grew up loving both. Although parliament could play there buts off and great songs. EWF could play great songs and sing there asses off they were the best.

  20. OK, I had a feeling that some would misinterpret the spirit of this article. I’m going to offer further context. Musicians in general do not like to remember the low points of their careers (like anyone in society). They don’t like to remember the times when they got blown out of the water by another band they shared a gig with. And yet, EWF does not look at that night at the DC Armory with a feeling of embarrassment. They speak on that night as being essential to their growth as a band. Phillip Bailey himself said that after that night, they never let another band blow them out of the water ever again. Maurice White recalibrated the band sound after that night at the Armory. This is why this article does not create a narrative that is in any way adversarial. It is written to paint a more accurate examination of the relationship between both bands. That is all it is.

  21. John T Eason

    I have seen both bands .EWF has a wider appeal and catolog.PFunk with the trippy lyrics and just funky rhythms was sitdown reward I like them both and there is room for both.EWF had a more consistent output for the longer period.Drugs,infighting,and u name it diminished PFunk output post the Elect eff ice Spanki g of War babies.George solo Computergames with Atomic Dog put funk back in the vein of music but it too only went so far. I pan Amozon lo ol king for cut out bin prices on subsequent PFunk outings looking 4a nugget .In the end PFunk is a lifestyle and EWF was great music.

  22. Got higher with P-funk/chilled more with EWF

  23. James W

    I was very fortunate to see both bands at different concerts back in 1979 ! Memories for EVER .

  24. Doyle 3136697757 English

    Man Funkadelics were no joke, when their music played…everybody got up! Saw them in concert at the fox in Detroit[where they are from]and they performed 3 hours straight! They were on the top of speakers in pampers,and smoking their joints,JAMMIN!! Unforgettable concert!

  25. Kenyetta Luck

    Loved EWF!They are simply phenomenal! Reasons, Sing A Song, etc. But I went wild over Parliament!! Flashlight!!! Both bands were totally awesome!! Just different vibes!!

  26. Joe Goodley

    I was visiting my bro in Phoenix, AZ. in 2003, during the time of The Grammy Awards, when there was a segment spotlight on funk and R&B. Earth, Wind and Fire was on stage with Outkast singing background to “The Way You Move” later George Clinton took the stage for a rendition of We want the funk” a reviewer of the show in The Phoenix daily news paper said. “E,W,& F represented the old school well, their harmonies were spot on. while Clinton strutted around barely causing a ripple sounding incoherent.” I guess in that sense there was a little payback. Both bands, had parallel goals claimed Maurice White in his book “My Time With E,W,and Fire” was to be mentioned in the same breath as the prominent rock bands able to draw sellout crowds in their live shows.

    • See, I got this theory that most muggs don’t really know what Funkadelic really is. They expect one thing and when they get another it befuddles them. This is some gritty, boiling gut bucket, underground funk. It was a rowdy on the edge street cult music. Bootsy used to get off on looking out in the audience at the end of the gig and seeing they scared everybody out of the venue.
      Some of the best PF shows I’ve attended were where the average mugs started booing and heading for the exits in disgust. They were expecting the whole show to be Flashlight and Knee Deep. Well, as the PF Guitar Army built this searing wall of ear-splitting axe-wielding acrobatics they could, alas, handle it not. Meanwhile we were moving closer & closer to the edge of the stage screaming “get off your ass and jam!”.
      I did enjoy EWF better live than on the record.
      PF is totally on the fringes.

      • Horny Hornes

        What years were these ? When mugs were booing & leaving?

        • Man I was at a gig in Greenville SC at about ’94. The Characters Club. The Funks came out on I’ll Betcha. Some old gritty funk. It went from there to Pussy, then into Music For My Mother. By the time he got to Funky Dollar Bill some girls over left of me starting talking about they wanted their $ back lol. It spread thru a crowd that did not know what they were getting into. They couldn’t hang in there for the hits. The catalog is so vast. We straggled up in there for like the next 4 hours lol. It was an incredible gig.

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