Musical prodigy, Woo Warrior, Outer Limits Keyboard Wizard, and All-Time Funk Champion Dr. G. Bernard Worrell, Jr. (a.k.a “Bernie Worrell”) transcended his earthly form on Friday. This guy composed a concerto at 8 years old and had dramatically altered popular music forever by the time he was a young man.
Worrell and his cohorts in the Parliament-Funkadelic (“P-Funk”) Army got a hold of my musical mind at a very tender young age, turned it upside down, and shook it vigorously until the dust bunnies all fell out. Then they poured in their liquid light interplanetary funk-marinade elixir, sealed up the lid, gave it one more shake for good measure, and sent me on my way. I have never been the same. Nor has the world.
P-Funk shares something in common with Bowie. Like David, Worrell and his compatriots (most notably Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, and Eddie Hazel) are so influential that most of the time, you don’t even know that they’re there. As the fish is not aware of the water in which she swims and breathes every moment of her life, we listeners also cannot measure the impact that musical Titans like Worrell and Bowie have had on the shaping and education of our ears. This was especially true of the Wizard of Woo, whose contributions didn’t draw the audience’s attention the way that Clinton and Collins’ stage antics and costumery did, but he was the composer, arranger and conductor behind so much of P-Funk’s discography – and the keyboard alchemist behind so much of their other-worldly sound – that the P-Funk, quite literally, never could have existed without him.
P-Funk is among the most widely sampled musical entities in popular music’s history. Their lyrics and beats and hooks and riffs and melodies are so commonly found at the heart of commercial radio hits that one could be forgiven for concluding that people decided to stop making new music after the P-Funk came along. Because, why bother? No one could ever be funkier or more raw or more real than they got. And at the backbone of this massive musical assault on your D’VoidofFunk, no-dancin’ ass were the dancing fingers and the luminous musical mind of one Bernie Worrell, the Wizard of Woo.
Thank you for everything, Bernie! Ride in Uhuru, my Bright-Shining Guide through the Gaping Void.