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George Clinton reflects on career as he brings funk to Hollywood Walk of Fame: ‘I’m proud as hell’

George Clinton reflected on the highs and lows of his seven-decade career in music as he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Friday (19 January).

The funk pioneer, 82, was honoured with a ceremony that featured speeches from Red Hot Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kiedis, legendary Motown songwriter Janie Bradford and civil rights lawyer Ben Crump.

Hundreds of fans thronged down Hollywood Boulevard outside the Musician’s Union to witness the unveiling of the 2,769th Walk of Fame star.

“This feels good as s***,” Clinton announced. “I’m proud as hell.”

Clinton, who grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey before becoming a songwriter for Motown Records in the 1960s, pointed out that he hasn’t always received such plaudits.

“I learned early on in this journey that you are only as big as your latest hit,” said Clinton. “So you had to keep things in perspective, to keep from getting a big head. I found out that there would be times when it seemed like everyone knew your name. Then were times when no one knew you. I learned to respect the balance.

“If I needed to hear my name spoken out loud, I would go to the airport and page myself! That’s how fickle the ego is. Sometimes, I might be alone in the mirror and think: ‘I’m all that, I’m a bad motherf***er!’ Then I go ahead and flush the toilet along with the rest of the s***!”

George Clinton (left) and The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis at the unveiling of Clinton’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
George Clinton (left) and The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis at the unveiling of Clinton’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Clinton recalled being inspired to form a doo-wop group after hearing Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, but said they were rejected by Motown “because we didn’t look as cool as the Temptations”. He added that this inspired him to adopt a new, hippie-inspired look for his groundbreaking groups Funkadelic and Parliament. “About as anti-Motown as you could get!”

He said that receiving a star on Hollywood Boulevard was particularly meaningful to him, as he lived on the street when he moved to Los Angeles. “I know this hood right here. I know these streets,” he said. “I know what it means to see these names on the streets, these stars. I have often looked at them and dreamed that one day I might be down here myself.

“Even though I hung out on this street, up to no good... I see a lot of faces that I remember! I lived here in the Seventies so I know what happened on these streets at night, along with hookers, hippies, and druggies, of which I was one. But I’m cool now!”

Prior to Clinton’s speech, Kiedis took to the podium to share his memories of being inspired by seeing Clinton live and then moving with his Red Hot Chili Peppers bandmates into Clinton’s house in Michigan so that the legendary musician could produce their second album, 1985’s Freaky Styley.

“We started writing, and George started teaching us,” said Kiedis. “For me personally, George became an instant friend, a teacher, a mentor, a father figure, a co-conspirator, an instigator and, honestly, a conductor of alien enterprises, truth be told.”

Kiedis then sang a short excerpt of what he called a “spiritual hymn”, Parliament’s 1975 track “P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)”.

Motown songwriter Janie Bradford, best known for co-writing hits like “Money (That's What I Want)” and "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby", reminisced about her first meeting with Clinton.

“I’m gonna tell you a tale of George Clinton, music genius and clothing designer,” she said. “But before all of this he was a three-piece-suit-wearing dude, hair always pomping, but he had a briefcase full of dreams.

“Hearing about this magic building in Detroit, George ventured to Hitsville USA which housed Motown Records with a number of songs. There was this real cute girl there who listened to his songs and signed him as a staff writer. Oh, I forgot to mention, the cute girl was me!”

Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump added his praise for Clinton, saying: “Now more than ever in the world, we need music that brings us all together. Nobody’s music brings us together quite like this brother, bringing us together one nation under a groove!”

Meanwhile, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president Steve Nissen drew a huge roar from the assembled crowd when he declared today, 19 January: “George Clinton Day in Hollywood!”