What Would Bootsy Do?
And more importantly, why should you want to know?
When Parliament Funkadelic comes to the Thunderdome on Sunday (tickets are $18 for students, available at the A.S. Ticket Office), there will be one notable exception. You will probably see a man in robes and streamers. You will probably see a man in a diaper. You very likely will see a number of men in big hats, big boots, big coats and possible big post-’70s drug hazes. You will not see a man in star-glasses, playing a star-shaped bass the same way you would play Hungry Hungry Hippos – rapidly, recklessly, intensely, skillfully (well, assuming you’re skilled at Hungry Hungry Hippos) and with a gleeful abandon.
But unlike a college student playing Hungry Hungry Hippos, this man will also be quite incredibly mind-bogglingly cool.
This man is William “Bootsy” Collins, master of the Space Bass and a key element in ’70s funk from the birth to the disco-esque demise. What have you done for the funk lately?
Drafted, along with his band, into the ranks of James Brown’s backup (on account of the Godfather being a royal asshole and driving away everyone in his old band), Catfish gave a tired Papa a brand new bag. Get up, get on up – he co-wrote “Sex Machine” and “Super Bad.” And you, all you out there, all ya’ll most certainly never did any such thing.
After divesting himself of the Godfather’s musical mob-mentality, his band went on tour decked out in the fashions they had absorbed from the European club scenes they had witnessed while touring. They were the craziest thing in Cincinnati, and supposedly in the entire Great Lakes area, although supposedly there was this one band in Detroit…
Bootsy and co. relocated to Detroit with the sole intention of confronting this so-called “Funkadelic” and beating them in a battle of the bands. And indeed, Bootsy finally tracked down George Clinton to his studio… only to find Funkadelic had just quit.
Instead of outplaying Funkadelic, Bootsy’s band became Funkadelic. And you out there are most certainly not in Funkadelic.
Throwing his hat in the P-Funk ring, Bootsy found himself a key member of Parliament and then quickly the leader of his branch of the funk family. From the mid- to the late-’70s, Bootsy’s Rubber Band played alongside and separately from Parliament, forging (at last) a distinctly individual identity for Bootsy.
Following a fairly quiet ’80s, Bootsy returned to some prominence doing arrangement for Dee-Lite, starring in an ill-fated cartoon, and later co-writing the Fatboy Slim hit, “Weapon of Choice” (aka “The Video With Chris Walken Flapping Around Like a Vulture on Crystal”). Most recently, he did the immensely popular “Dr. Funk” spots for Nike – you know, “Glory be, the funk’s on me…”
A lot of you wear Nike shoes, and you owe Bootsy for making your feet a little cooler.
The most lasting contribution of Bootsy’s, however, is the formulation of the “Pinocchio Theory,” the one that states, “Don’t fake the funk or your nose gots to grow.”
You don’t want your nose to grow, do you?
Well, then, the easiest way not to fake the funk is to always be asking yourself, “What would Bootsy do?”
Anyone presenting evidence to Artsweek of themselves dressed as Bootsy for Halloween will get a neat prize.