Black Music Month: Bass Master Bootsy Collins Looks Back On Decades Of Funk
Updated: 06/26/2011 12:24 PM
By: Dean Meminger
As NY1 continues its celebration of Black Music Month, funk master Bootsy Collins took time before a New York City concert to talk about his long, funky career with NY1's Dean Meminger.
With what he calls his "space bass," Bootsy Collins helped to put the "funky" in funk music. His hard-hitting base line helped make some of James Brown's and George Clinton's song's extra funky and memorable.
"I didn't know I was going to be a funk musician when I was coming up," says Collins. "I just landed with James Brown, from there I went with George Clinton. So it was kind of like, bam! You are a funk musician."
Collins started playing the guitar as a child and eventually switched over to the bass guitar. It may be hard for some to believe, but this funk man started out playing church music.
“As a matter of fact, gospel that was the first group I played with, The Christian Airs," says Collins. "Eleven years old, played with the Christian Airs, they were a big-time gospel group back in the day. This was before I started playing in the clubs."
He was so good as as a teenager, Bootsy Collins started playing bass for James Brown. He says the "Godfather of Soul" heard his young band and was impressed.
"He inquired, 'Who are these young mugs off the street, making all this noise over here?' He kept asking about us," says Collins. “He knew if anything went down with his band, he knew who to call. And as soon as something went down with his group, he called and sent for us and we were ready. He knew we knew all of his music."
Collins says he learned a valuable musical lesson from the superstar.
“So James Brown, this is how he said it -- 'Son, the first thing I want you to do is give me the one. Play all that other stuff you want to play, but give me the one,'" says Collins. "And I didn't understand what that was, and he showed me -- the first beat of every minute. 'Give me that down beat, every time.'"
Collins used that lesson when he went on to play with George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic in the early 1970s. His bass playing became even funkier and so did his style of dress, like the rest of the band.
"Out of the '60s era, they had this peace and love, they was doing the wild thing," says Collins. "'Funk' was a bad word when I first got into this 'funk thing.' We were coming out of Soul and R&B music, so there wasn't such a thing as 'funk.' They told us we couldn't do interviews. The only way we could do interviews is take 'funk' out of our vocabulary."
That wasn't going to happen. Then came Bootsy's Rubber Band.
Bootsy Collins has stayed busy, with performing with others artists and writing music for various projects, including video games. He also has a new CD, "Tha Funk Capital Of The World."
"I really don't care what anybody's opinion is of me, because I represent the funk. It's not just me, it is a thing bigger than just me," says Collins. "And when they think they're coming down on me, it's all right, because it's all about the funk."
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