News just in this morning that co-founder of Parliament-Funkadelic Bernie Worrell has died at the age of 72.
In a year that keeps taking musical icons away from us, we’re sorry to bring news that Bernie Worrell, composer and keyboardist who was one of the co-founders of Parliament-Funkadelic, has died aged 72. Earlier this year Worrell revealed that he was suffering from lung cancer, and asked his fans to help raise money for his medical bills and to help him finish his final album Retrospectives.
According to his official biography, Worrell began studying piano aged just three and performed with the Washington Symphony Orchestra aged just eight. He would study music at both the Jilliard School of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music before becoming musical director for Maxine Brown.
He would meet and join George Clinton in the early seventies and would be one of the original members of the classic Parliament-Funkadelic line-ups. It was with Clinton’s P-Funk outfit that Worrell became a funk legend, introducing new technology in the form of the synthesiser giving Parliament-Funkadelic it’s unique sound. He would co-write and perform on all the big P-Funk hits: ‘Up For The Downstroke‘, ‘Give Up The Funk‘, ‘Atomic Dog‘, and of course, ‘Flashlight‘. He would also perform with the outfit on the road, partaking on the legendary long-playing P-Funk gigs.
After disputes with Clinton and others in the P-Funk family, Worrell departed and later joined a revamped line-up of The Talking Heads and recorded several albums, including The Name of This Band is Talking Heads and Speaking in Tongues. He left Talking Heads yet remained in demand as a studio musician, gracing albums and songs by the likes of Bootsy’ New Rubberband, Keith Richards, Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg. He also released several of his own funk albums, including an album of funked-up standards, All the Woo in the World, and his last, the instrumental Retrospectives that saw Worrell revisit fan-favourites for the very last time.
In 2016 it was revealed that he was diagnosed with lung cancer and his wife reached out to social media and to his fans for support. She has also published several Facebook posts and a blog on his website detailing Worrell’s days with P-Funk and George Clinton, alleging that Clinton stole money from Worrell. The two were even working on a book. Former LaBelle singer and funk-rock icon Nona Hendryx had arranged for a benefit concert in New York attended by the great and good, from Meryl Streep (who he appeared alongside in the film Ricki and the Flash) to Bootsy Collins (Clinton also made an appearance, which in a Facebook post his wife claimed was unwanted).
Last week his wife posted on Facebook that Worrell was nearing the end of his life, and last night she revealed that he had passed away. Bernie Worrell was a pioneering musician, the likes of which we will never see again. RIP Bernie.