Born in Kannapolis, NC, on July 22, 1940, Clinton became interested in doo wop while living in New Jersey during the early ’50s. He formed the Parliaments in 1955, based out of a barbershop back room where he straightened hair. The group had a small R&B hit during 1967, but Clinton began to mastermind the Parliaments’ activities two years later. Recording both as Parliament and Funkadelic, the group revolutionized R&B during the ’70s, twisting soul music into funk by adding influences from several late-’60s musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, and Sly Stone. The Parliament/Funkadelic machine ruled black music during the ’70s, capturing over 40 R&B hit singles (including three number ones) and recording three platinum albums.
By 1980, George Clinton began to be weighed down by legal difficulties arising from Polygram’s acquisition of Parliament’s label, Casablanca. Jettisoning both the Parliament and Funkadelic names (but not the musicians), Clinton signed to Capitol in 1982 both as a solo act and as the P.Funk All-Stars. His first solo album, 1982’s Computer Games, contained the Top 20 R&B hit “Loopzilla.” Several months later, the title track from Clinton’s Atomic Dog EP hit number one on the R&B charts; it stayed at the top spot for four weeks, but only managed number 101 on the pop charts. Clinton stayed on Capitol for three more years, releasing three studio albums and frequently charting singles — “Nubian Nut,” “Last Dance,” “Do Fries Go With That Shake” — in the R&B Top 40. During much of the three-year period from 1986 to 1989, Clinton became embroiled in legal difficulties (resulting from the myriad royalty problems latent during the ’70s with recordings of over 40 musicians for four labels under three names). Also problematic during the latter half of the ’80s was Clinton’s disintegrating reputation as a true forefather of rock; by the end of the decade, however, a generation of rappers reared on P-Funk were beginning to name check him.
In 1989, Clinton signed a contract with Prince’s Paisley Park label and released his fifth solo studio album, The Cinderella Theory. After one more LP for Paisley Park (Hey Man, Smell My Finger), Clinton signed with Sony 550. His first release, 1996’s T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (“the awesome power of a fully operational mothership”), reunited the funk pioneer with several of his Parliament/Funkadelic comrades from the ’70s. Clinton’s Greatest Funkin’ Hits (1996) teamed old P-Funk hits with new-school rappers such as Digital Underground, Ice Cube, and Q-Tip.