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Spotlight: Bernie Worrell Orchestra

Thursday, March 14, 12mid, the Jr

By Thomas Fawcett, Fri., March 15, 2013

Spotlight: Bernie Worrell Orchestra

"I was brought up real strict," remembers pianist, composer, and Moog master Bernie Worrell. "I couldn't go out and hang on the corner with 'them hoodlums,' as my mother called them. So I started sneaking out the bedroom window. I'd go down to the barbershop and get my hair processed. That's how I first met George Clinton.

"George used to process hair. He was a barber. All the Parliaments were."

Worrell's mother wasn't any more fond of Clinton in those early days in Plainfield, New Jersey, than she was after her son became a founding member of Funkadelic, arguably the most innovative freak show music has ever seen. The Wizard of Woo was a child prodigy well before Dr. Funkenstein rubbed relaxer on his dome, however. He first sat behind the 88 keys at age 3 and gave his first classical concert at 4. As a primary songwriter for Parliament Funkadelic, Worrell penned classics like "Flash Light," "Aqua Boogie," "Cosmic Slop," and "Chocolate City." Now fronting his own Orchestra, the 68-year-old admits life on the road rides a bit tamer than his heyday aboard the Mothership.

"You sleep a lot on the plane and sleep a lot trying to acclimate to the different time zones," he laughs. "The difference then is you were partying. Before, during, and after the show. Now, arthritis and different factors say, 'Uh-uh, no you don't.'"

Worrell's current big band laces original compositions among covers from P-Funk and Talking Heads.

"I'm just a conduit. It comes from God, through me, and to the people. I was born with perfect pitch, so anything I hear, I can play. I just try to do my share and heal people along the way."

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