George Clinton looks like he lives and breathes funk.

The wild hair, the big sunglasses, the shiny clothes — all fit the image of the man who helped make “funk” a household musical term in the 1970s.

But the 69-year-old godfather of funk has an interesting little secret: He listens to the music of teen idol Justin Bieber.

“Justin Bieber. Anything the kids are into,” answered Clinton, when asked what music he listens to in his spare time. “When parents hate it, you’re onto something.”

Clinton speaks from experience. There were probably more than a few parents who were annoyed over the years by the pounding sounds of “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” or “Dr. Funkenstein” or some other song involving Clinton and his band, Parliament Funkadelic.

But of course, the kids who wanted to annoy their parents are now adults and still going to Clinton shows.

One of those shows will be Saturday night, when Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic inaugurate the brand-new Maine State Pier summer concert series.

Clinton’s career is a great example of how all music evolves. Music genres are not just invented in a vacuum.

He grew up in Plainfield, N.J., and started a doo-wop group, The Parliaments, in 1956. In the 1960s, the group gravitated to a more horn-filled, soul-based sound, culminating with their first hit in 1967, “(I Wanna) Testify.” Around the same time, Clinton began working as a songwriter and producer for Motown.

By 1970, the group of musicians Clinton hired to back up The Parliaments had been named Funkadelic and became the focus of the band’s sound. It was really two bands touring together under the collective name Parliament Funkadelic.

Between 1975 and 1979, P-Funk scored several hits on the R&B charts and on pop radio, and elaborate stage props and costumes made the band an arena draw. “Give Up the Funk” became a pop anthem, and the band’s sound and look inspired generations of musicians, from Earth, Wind & Fire to Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Clinton and the other members of Parliament Funkadelic — all 15 of them — were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

The popularity of P-Funk’s sound has been a double-edged sword, though. It’s allowed Clinton to keep making music and draw big crowds as he nears 70. But it also, in his opinion, has cost him a lot of money in lost royalties.

Clinton’s songs have been sampled heavily by other bands over the years, and he feels he hasn’t been paid adequately, or at all. So he’s devoted a lot of his time lately to fighting legal battles that assert his ownership of songs he wrote and recorded.

“Funk is the DNA of hip hop. But because (record-label executives) and others have schemed together so much, the art of sampling and basic copyrights continue to suffer,” said Clinton in an e-mail interview.

Clinton went on to say that artists do pay for the right to sample, but that money goes generally to record labels, not to the originating artists.

Clinton has started a blog ( to educate people on this issue. On it, he writes about a bill being drafted to give federal protection to artists against copyright and royalty theft.

When asked how much money he think’s he’s owed for songs of his that were sampled, he said he really doesn’t know.

But he does know that his battles with record companies hasn’t dulled his love for the music. Or the public’s, for that matter.

“Funk is whatever you need it to be at that time when you need something real strong,” said Clinton. “More people come the shows now than ever before.”

Clinton is that rare musician who has become a cultural touchstone, a symbol of a time in pop-culture history. One piece of evidence is that “The Mothership” — the flashy spaceship prop he used on stage for years — has become property of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

“It’s been set up in our studio (in Tallahassee, Fla.) for years until they came to get it. Sorry to see it go,” said Clinton. “I’m glad it’ll have a good home and continue to inspire new Funkateers for generations. It means a lot to a lot of people.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]