Red Chair interview: George Clinton

CNN Red Chair Interview: George Clinton
CNN Red Chair Interview: George Clinton


    CNN Red Chair Interview: George Clinton


CNN Red Chair Interview: George Clinton 03:07

Story highlights

  • CNN sits down with George Clinton for a Red Chair interview
  • The P-Funk mastermind says his music and fans have kept him going
  • He pursues piracy issues and tirelessly fights to protect artists' work
When George Clinton enters the room, I wonder if I should salute him with an "Atomic Dog" bark or hug him.
The 70-year-old architect of P-Funk doesn't look his age and today he's dressed in his signature hat, shades and jeans. He greets me with a warm smile. I return it.
My mission is to learn the secret to his longevity. He's still performing and touring after all, something he's done since the 1950s.
Initially his hoarse voice alarms me. I silently remind myself of his age. When I ask him, as I always do of my Red Chair guests, to introduce himself on camera, his voice transforms immediately. He barks loudly and deeply. You Parliament-Funkadelic fans know what I mean.
When he relives some of his greatest hits -- "I Wanna Testify," "Maggot Brain," " One Nation Under a Groove," "Chocolate City," and "Flash Light" -- he is animated. His stories are so visual, I too can see the band and him onstage.
"Every 10 years, we had a big hit," he reflects.
Clinton is known for rebranding. He would change the lead, the look and name of his bands with the times to great success.
I ask what encouraged him between decades. He gives credit to his numerous band mates throughout the years. Bootsy Collins is among them.
It is clear he still misses the band members who have died, too. He reminisces about the man known for wearing a diaper on stage, "Diaperman" Gary Shider. Clinton had known him since 1953. He died in June 2010. He and Eddie Hazel had been friends even longer, since 1950. He was the lead guitarist for Funkadelic. He died in 1992.
Clinton also says his music and fans have kept him going.
Although he used to straighten people's hair when he was a teenager, he cannot imagine a life doing anything else but music.
Clinton's songs are among the most sampled. He tirelessly fights to protect artists' work. Piracy is the word he uses most often during our interview.
He has advice for others wanting to get into the business. He says he would be hypocritical if he said to not abuse drugs.
"'No' is the greatest aphrodisiac in the world," he said. "If you tell a kid to not do something, well, guess what he will do."
He acknowledges he, too, may have made better decisions if he had been on top of his game.
"It's hard for him to do [drugs] and pay attention to the money," he says.
Clinton says he is healthy, has energy and hopes to do what he loves best for years to come.