Funk in Drag in Roxbury

September 28th, 2009 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

P-Funk Ensemble from Berklee is like and unlike the original. It’s funny both ways to think of them out there at all and specifically performing at last weekend’s Beantown Jazz Festival. There’s a lineage there direct from my high school (Plainfield, New Jersey).

The incarnation I saw on Columbus Avenue covering Parliament Funkadelic had the drag down — 1970s psychedelic jackets, dresses, hats,wigs and boas. It was incongruous to see the very young, very white (smattering of Asian and black) horde of rockers. But, hey, this was Berklee; they clearly drew on the students they have. The original band looked quite a bit rougher, tougher and darker.

Therein lies my vicarious tale and tenuous link.

While some non-rock historians say James Brown was the godfather of funk as well as soul, they are dead wrong. The funk originator and namer and pioneer was George Clinton. He was a barber in Plainfield when he assembled the original Parliaments. Through nasty business deals and expediency, they added members. When their name was sold out from under them, there were versions Funkadelic, Parliament and Parliament Funkadelic.  To his lasting credit, Clinton kept his original guys, plus, from doo wop to rock to funk.

Two of the early members were Richard and Frankie Boyce, brothers, who like all the other originals went to PHS. There were times I shared a homeroom and all was quiet. Many other times, they were on. They and sometimes other members would sing on the way to class. We had a four-story school four about 2,000. Boston Latin School is built a lot like PHS, with wide staircases. They were one-way for students. The Frankie and Richard would break into Testify or some Motown tune, harmonizing the hell out of the hallway. It was cheap thrills to have a three-minute concert several times a day. Sometimes, I’d risk being late to go with them to their floor to catch the end of a tune.

Richard is back into music. Frankie is dead from a grenade in Vietnam. Parliament Funkadelic officially folded, but the Berklee ensemble is having a good time with their style. They even had a lesson/session with Clinton.

We had several other recording individuals and groups in PHS. In a very different sound was the Critters. Classmate and friend Joel Blumert swears that Don Ciccone and Bob Podstawski, particularly the former, Critters originals are highly talented. Joel’s a professional musician and must know better. I found Younger Girl and Mr. Dieingly Sad insipid. What do I know?

My conclusion though is that we should all get to go to high school with good musicians.

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One Response

  1. Miss Grimke says:

    Original Funkadelic, far left, is wearing my boots.

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