Ahh…The Name is Bootsy Baby
I had the pleasure of meeting Bootsy Collins this summer. The music of Parliament-Funkadelic and Bootsy Collins brought me back to my childhood. I was in the 6th grade when I first heard the song, “Flashlight.” My class choreographed a dance to this never-ending song. The influence of “happy” funk and the melodies that ensued are some of my best memories of growing up.
I was so inspired to meet Bootsy. I wanted to meet the man that enriched my musical childhood with the kind of music that would sweat out your perm. Along with that sound was the costumes, the beats, horns, and of course that funky, funky space bass.
Bootsy had a vision from the beginning. He had his star-shaped glasses created by the same man who created Elton John’s unique glasses. I asked Bootsy, “Why do you want your glasses mirrored and star-shaped”?
Bootsy answered, “Because I want the kids to see themselves through my star-shaped glasses.” The kids are the rising stars, and they should see themselves that way! Bootsy Collins had this in his heart from the beginning, even before he signed with Columbia Records and went on to funk super stardom with George Clinton and Parliament.
Ohio has a rich musical heritage of soul music’s best bands. Slave, The Ohio Players, The Ojay’s, Roger, The Dazz Band, Zapp, The Isleys Brothers, Bobby Womack other and chart-topping talents still blowing the lids off all the music canisters.
These Ohio bands would come to each other’s sets while playing clubs in Los Angeles. The battle was on. They would go back to the studio and create something more funk filled that the last. These battles were inspirational, and we received some of the most memorable soulful songs of our era and eras to come.
The Funk Master himself, Bootzilla, Casper, Zillatron, Space Base, William Earl Bootsy Collins, musical heartbeat began in the church. In Funk music, the emphasis is on the first beat. James Brown was first to emphasized and coin the phrase, “The one.” Nobody hits “the one” harder than James and George Clinton.
Bootsy felt the beats and the rhythms of the worship of God rolling thru isles, stomping of feet, raising of hands and voices and instruments roaring gave him Bootsy “One.”
Bootsy had a love for art and music. In the 6th grade, he took clarinet lesson from a man upstairs in his apartment building one summer. He had his eye on being the first chair when school began. After much practice, he got the first chair. And although he wasn’t the best in school, he couldn’t wait until last hour to have band class. Bootsy understands better than most the value of practice and dedication.
Bootsy was always musically talented. He learned to play the bass, drums, keyboards, and guitar. Along with his older brother Frankie “Catfish” Kash Waddie and Philippe Wynne they formed The Pacemakers. They later joined the JB’s, James Brown original band. While with the JB’s, Bootsy asked for two Fender amps to put on each side of the stage so the audience would feel the funk all around them. This was the first of many innovations to music Bootsy made that had never been done before.
During his stint with James Brown, Bootsy learned how to act and how not to act. James Brown was an icon and had a reputation for being difficult and controlling. Bootsy experienced all of it. When Bootsy hit musical stardom, it was rumored that James Brown didn’t celebrate Bootsy’s success.
Bootsy met George Clinton, and the P-Funk was born. Bootsy and George Clinton used their creativity to bring to life the P-Funk. Bootsy became a megastar with the star glasses, star bass, the hats, and his costumes. He later formed his own band, Bootsy’s Rubber Band. He wasn’t following anyone, he was inspiring all of us. Bootsy and his Rubber Band worn outfits were outrageous and utterly unthinkable to wear in public. These outfits encouraged fun, creativity and energy.
Pop had Elton John, funk had Parliament. The groove of new P-Funk music moved our hearts, our bodies and most of all our feet. It was house dance music, and you couldn’t be devoid of funk. “Flashlight” was the longest electric slide song in my childhood. “Flashlight” was an anthem of P-Funk.
Bootsy’s voice and sound still ring true today. He collaborates with artists from his youth and today’s artist. Bootsy has worked with artists from Snoop Dogg to Bruno Mars. You can still hear and feel the love of his music in theirs.
His original music is inspired by the energy of the youth and grounded in the legend that creates it. Bootsy Collins was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 along with George Clinton and Parliament.
Bootsy has battled many temptations in his life and came out on top. He has also lost many people close to him, including his older brother Catfish, who was also a surrogate dad to him at times. He also won the love of his beautiful wife, Patti. Together they formed, The Bootsy Collins Foundation. The Bootsy Collins Foundation is recognized internationally and serves to educate, provide and communicate music through the culture of the region or nation from which it is from.
Bootsy and his wife have a mission to bring music programs back into the schools. He knows firsthand the experience of how music can enrich the lives of the youth. He was that young boy once, who found the love of an instrument and was able to escape the mean urban streets of Cincinnati. He found artistic expression through music and gives it all back with love. After all, he wants them to see the stars in their own eyes.