It’s hard to even scratch the surface of Bernie Worrell‘s influence on American music within a few hundred words. We’ll leave that project to the true scholars of funk–for the moment. But as a token of our appreciation for all he’s done for music throughout nearly 50 years of writing, recording and performing, we’ve assembled some of our favorite Bernie cuts, collaborations and cosmic collisions into one very funky trip across the P-Funk catalogue, dipping into offshoots, solo projects and everything in between each and every constellation, including his work with entirely unrelated groups.
George Clinton may be the recognized captain of the mothership, bur Bernie was at least the pilot; the Sulu and the Scotty to Clinton’s Kirk, kicking some of the most anthemic jams of the ’70s and ’80s into warp speed while powering up the dilithium crystals of other funk masterpieces with writing, arrangement and bass-line after unstoppable bass-line you probably just assumed were rubberized by Bootsy Collins…until you read the labels and discover: Nope, Bernie. And it’s no secret that we could have very well thrown damn-near every record in the sprawling, expansive P-Funk universe into this playlist as Worrell’s licks, arrangements and keyboard bass bounce litter virtually everything the group put out between 1970 and 1980. But no matter how deep you think you have delved into Bernie’s catalog, there is seemingly always more to discover. Maybe you knew his instantly recognizable synth vamp powered “Knee Deep” (and therefore De La Soul’s “Me, Myself & I”). And “Flashlight.” And “Atomig Dog” (!). But did you know about the disco-inflected Talking Heads tracks he played on? Yeah? Okay, you did? Well how about the writing credit on Eddie Hazel‘s sublime “Frantic Moment” ? Aha. Or his later work with Mos Def‘s backing band and rock project Black Jack Johnson? Or that solo cut flipped by Madlib for his Bad Neighbor standout “Knock Knock” with Blu, MED and DOOM?
No matter how far you travel into the Blacktronic wormhole, there’s always one more jam. The math is fuzzy. The funk series stretches asympotically toward infinity. There’s no way, in fact, to fully measure the slop. But we’ll start with the nice, round number 0f 20. Here’s a curated portal into the Worrell continuum designed for the enjoyment of seasoned funkateers and newcomers alike. We are one planet under Bernie Worrell’s eternal groove, and he will forever be in the funkiest part of our hearts.
Stream and subscribe to the playlist below. Donate to the family of Bernie Worrell by following this link.