Parliament-Funkadelic Legend Bernie Worrell Dies at 72

As part of Parliament-Funkadelic, Worrell’s indelible keyboard skills – including his pioneering use of Minimoog on songs like Parliament’s “Flash Light” – were a major influence on R&B in the ‘80s, hip-hop, new wave and early electronic music.

Worrell was also a regular contributor to Talking Heads in the '80s, appearing on several of their albums and featuring in the classic documentary Stop Making Sense. Thirty-one years after that film, Worrell reunited with director Jonathan Demme to play a keyboard player in Meryl Streep’s band in Ricki and the Flash.

Born in Long Branch, New Jersey, Worrell was a piano prodigy who eventually linked up with forward-thinking funk mastermind George Clinton. As part of the Parliament-Funkadelic collective, Worrell’s synthesized keyboard sounds were an essential part of the P-Funk sound that set the template for hip-hop.

Starting with Funkadelic’s self-titled 1970 debut, Worrell became an essential part of Funkadelic’s subsequent 10 albums. By 1974, he had joined sister band Parliament during the party funk band’s mid-to-late-1970s heyday, helping craft mammoth staples of the genre such as “Up For the Down Stroke,” “Dr. Funkenstein,” “Chocolate City,” “P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)” and “Mothership Connection (Star Child).”

His wobbly bass line on “Flash Light” from 1977’s Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome – one of the funkiest ever recorded – was crafted not by longtime bassist Bootsy Collins, but by Worrell running three Minimoog synthesizers together.

Alongside Clinton and Collins, Worrell helped define the sound of that decade by co-writing many of the band’s bombastic hits, and eventually their work would underline the G-Funk era of hip-hop ushered in by Dr. Dre in the early 1990s.

In later years, he released several funk-inspired solo albums and contributed to projects from Ginger Baker, Mos Def and more. His most recent work with the P-Funk collective was on Funkadelic’s 2014 reunion album First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate.

In 1997, Worrell was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame alongside Clinton, Collins and 13 other members of Parliament-Funkadelic; the late great Prince was on hand to give the induction speech. [Read More]