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Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and Godfather of Funk George Clinton returns to his Newark roots with an upcoming 80th Birthday Bash NJPAC Concert on March 18

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Jonathan Chimene
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George Clinton at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2018

George Clinton is considered by many as the "Godfather of Funk" behind Parliament and Funkadelic is a member of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, musician, singer, songwriter, bandleader, record producer and now a visual artist.

Clinton joined WBGO Journal host and News Director Doug Doyle to talk about his upcoming 80th Birthday Bash Celebration Concert at NJPAC in Newark on March 18.

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Doug Doyle/Zoom
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George Clinton who lives in Tallahassee, Florida joined WBGO Journal host Doug Doyle for a Zoom chat

The music legend was born in North Carolina but grew up in Newark.

"I started Parliament in the sixth grade at the Avon Avenue School. We used to practice in the boy's playground. Back then there was a boy's playground and a girl's playground on each side of the building. I used to dream about Parliament being famous. Frankie Lymon was the hit of that year when we started it and everybody had a group on every corner in Newark, Jersey City, New York, Brooklyn. Doo Wop was it."

Clinton also recalled his days working at a Hula Hoop factory in Newark.

"When the hula hoop first came out on the East Coast they came to Newark. We helped them unload the equipment, my little street gang, 15-year olds running around in Newark. We helped them hire people and we did it so good, we got the little kids eight, nine and ten who had all the energy cause you had to bend a long strip of plastic into a circle and have a cork in between and the old man would staple it. We got the kids who had fun doing that and paid them a few dollars a week. We helped them pack them up and send them to Frankfurt, Germany. When the fad was over, we had hula hoops everywhere."

A few years before that, The "Godfather of Funk", just 12 years old at the time, would run into another music legend.

"I delivered milk to Sarah Vaughan on Avon Avenue, I was on the milk truck taking up bottles upstairs. I didn't know who she was. I remember the drive told us this is the song and then as you got older wow that's who that was!"

Clinton says he also worked at Essex Records when he was a teen.

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ERIK_RANK/NJPAC
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George Clinton returns to the city he grew up in to perform at NJPAC on March 18

Returning to Newark will be very special for Clinton. He now lives in Tallahassee, Florida. He had hoped to have the celebration concert at NJPAC a year ago, but the coronavirus pandemic put those plans on hold. He'll be joined by Quest Love, Vernon Reid and Nona Hendryx on March 18 at 8pm. Clinton is thrilled to have this incredible lineup on stage with him. He has plenty in common with Quest Love.

"He's one of those young ones that could analyze us and had all the history His dad was one of the famous doo-wopers, so we talked about that. Nona Hendryx, I used to do her hair before they were Labelle, they were Patti LaBelle & The Blue Belles. I used to do Patti and Nona's hair. That's a necessity back in our day. We did each others hair, straighten it and wave it."

Clinton was so good as a hair stylist, he worked at three shops in Newark and then in 1960 he started working at a shop Plainfield.

'I took the 49 bus every morning to Plainfield. I was the only barber that knew how to do hair like there out there. Parliament was still a singing group, so we would actually have to go practice Plainfield or Newark."

With that long history in both Newark and Plainfield, Clinton will be recognized in both cities the day before the NJPAC Concert. The music icon, who donated music equipment to Avon Avenue School, will have a music room there dedicated in his honor on March 17. That same day a street naming dedication will happen in Plainfield.

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George Clinton
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George Clinton is known as the Godfather of Funk

The half-time show of this year's Super Bowl in Los Angeles that featured Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog, Eminem and Mary J. Blige was also a moment of great joy for George Clinton. He has worked on the G-Funk sound with all of those performers except 50 Cent.

"When I looked up there and saw that stage I was proud. Not only did they sample but I literally worked with Dre on Tupac's records, on Snoop's records. I was so proud to see them all up there doing the business side the way they do, not only success with records."

Clinton says of all the awards he received during his more than five decade career, it was the Hip-Hop award he received in 1999 that has meant the most to him.

The creative innovator took advantage of the down time during the pandemic to refresh and develop his new found love of painting on canvases.

"I've been doing it for a few years. Having people around like Pedro Bell who did P-Funk album covers, one thing about Funk, if you're funking your going to have some style. So with the costumes, the props, the Mothership, I got into visual artist just by doodling autographs, drawing an Automatic Dog. When this pandemic thing jumped off, I had a chance to really do it. I sold one for 20-thousand dollars so I went out and bought every canvas I could find."

You can SEE the entire interview with George Clinton here.

Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 200 awards from organizations like PRNDI, AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.