Before & After Funkadelics “Maggot Brain”
On more than three dozen virtuoso, genre-blurring studio albums released from 1970 to 1982, George Clinton and the members of his exuberant Parliament-Funkadelic collective formed the backbone and shook the spoils of modern groove. Founded in 1955 by singers near a New Jersey barbershop, the group began as a Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers-style doo-wop act before turning to Detroit soul. Ultimately, they soaked up the culture of the late 1960s like sponges.
Parliaments morphed from a Motown aspiring singing group in matching ties and handkerchiefs to freaky hippies in bell bottoms, headgear, and the occasional American flag diaper. They were set on fire by psychedelic rockers like Jimi Hendrix and Cream; they hung out with punks like the MC5 and the Stooges; they enjoyed black power, free love, and underground comics. “Free your mind and your ass will follow,” they famously sang. “The kingdom of heaven is within.”
Funkadelic’s third album “Maggot Brain” was not a Technicolor game. It was the sound of the Woodstock dream postponed. The band emerged screaming from the shadows of Vietnam, the race riots in their old home New Jersey and their new home in Detroit, a heroin epidemic, poverty, Kent State and the death of Hendrix himself, whose death was full of symbolism.
The album was released 50 years ago, in July 1971, during a summer marked by the release of two more ambitious masterpieces of protest soul: the introspective reportage of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and the brooding disenchantment of Sly and the Family Stones “There is an insurrection going on.” But “Maggot Brain” exists on another astral plane. It’s unleashed and broken through the lens of LSD: 36 minutes of swirling jams, apocalyptic sound effects, heavy metal riffs, hard funk, and lyrical mashups by the Beatles and Martin Luther King Jr. The album cover is provocative – a screaming Black woman in front of the gate , and inside, text from the trial Church of the Last Judgment, the religious group is said to have ties to Charles Manson.
The work Clinton and his band released over the next decade would change the basis of modern hip-hop: you couldn’t turn on the radio in the 90s without hearing a slow-rolling rap song that was on a P-funk sample was built. But thanks to its Blacker-than-Sabbath atmospheres and transcendent solos, “Maggot Brain” has a unique sphere of influence among rock bands, R&B songwriters and jazz artists. In 2021, his legacy will be even more noticeable in the ever-evolving protest music from artists such as Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, Solange and Brittany Howard.
Here is an audio guide to the seven songs on the album, as well as the before and after songs.
All music previews and full tracks provided by