George Clinton remembered his longtime friend and collaborator, Prince, in a touching interview with Billboard. “When you come to the concept of a rock star, he is that,” Clinton said. “He’s the epitome of that.”
Clinton first met Prince — who died suddenly last week at the age of 57 — in the late Seventies. The Parliament-Funkadelic maestro helped the burgeoning musician kickstart his career by pitching his music to the influential Detroit DJ, the Electrifying Mojo, and years later, Prince repaid the favor by signing Clinton to Paisley Park Records. Along with releasing Clinton’s 1989 comeback album, The Cinderella Theory, Prince cast him in his 1990 movie, Graffiti Bridge, and featured him on the accompanying soundtrack.
Speaking of their work together, Clinton said Prince was “quiet in the studio” and noted that their tracks were often created during separate sessions. “[W]hen it came time for me to put my part on there, he was never there, and when it came time, I’d put my part on it and give it to him and he’d send it back to me.”
Clinton also heaped praise on Prince’s skill as a guitar player, noting his legendary performance alongside Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Steve Winwood during the George Harrison tribute at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony: “When you see him on stage with those people and they’re giving him props like he’s supposed to be getting, you realize, ‘Damn, this motherfucker is all that.'”
Clinton then noted Prince’s incredible songwriting skills, especially his ability to balance experimentation and craft with commercial and pop sensibilities. “Some might even say bubblegum,” Clinton said of Prince’s music, “but not really bubblegum, cause he was too clever of a writer. But they were hits, so many hits, that it seemed like he was just churning out bubblegum. But they weren’t. Those are stories and those are pieces of work that are gonna be around.”
Clinton closed by noting he felt about Prince in the Seventies the way he feels about Kendrick Lamar now. “You could see it coming,” he said. “You could see he was Sly [Stone] for the new generation. This is so hard to process on my brain right now. That was just so lef-field. I was not ready for anything like that. It’s hard to speak of, man.”