Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)"

Wednesday, February 22: 2:30 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Parliament's "Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock

1997 Hall of Fame inductee George Clinton, the mad genius of funk, launched his assault on music business-as-usual late in the 1960s with a short-lived but seminal R&B quintet called the Parliaments. As writer and producer, Clinton bent the group's post-Motown sound in a direction as smart as it was quirky. The Parliaments officially dissolved after one 1970 album and a major contractual problem; but Clinton, with an eye to the freak flags flown by Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, recreated the group as a band of outsiders complete with their own lingo, costumes, myths, and philosophy ("Free your mind… and your ass will follow"). Transforming himself into Dr. Funkenstein, Clinton cooked up a funk feast that spiked James Brown's gritty gumbo (much of it provided by original Brown musicians like Bootsy Collins, Fred Wesley, and Maceo Parker) with heavy doses of psychedelia, and a dash of rock and roll.  No one sounded like Parliament except Funkadelic, a virtually identical group Clinton signed to another label and encouraged to be even more eccentric. Touring "together" with up to 40 members as "A Parliafunkadelicment Thang," the bands became one of the most successful black concert acts of the Seventies. Although both groups tended to operate on R&B's wildest fringe, Parliament had more pop polish and benefited from Clinton's most memorable hooks. "Tear The Roof Off The Sucker (Give Up The Funk)," an edited version released with this reversed title, was its highest charting single, selling a million copies in 1976 (the song appeared as "Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)" on 1976's Mothership Connection album). A typically hypnotic riff, laced with weird organ-like synth doodles, the record loops through demented chants and playful la-la choruses. "We gonna turn this mother out," Parliament promises the dance crowd; in a uniquely warped way, that's exactly what the band does.

George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic will perform on Thursday, April 12, 2012 at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena as part of the Free Concert For Cleveland, one of many events leading up to the Hall of Fame Inductions on April 14.


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