On January 6, P-Funk members Bootsie Collins and George Clinton confirmed the death of one their own.
One of P-Funk’s original vocalists, Calvin Simon, has died at age 79.
Bootsie and George took to social media to announce their friend’s passing.
George, Bootsie, and the rest of the 15 member crew of Parliament-Funkadelic have known each other for a long time. Calvin Simon in particular has been with the group since the late 50s. Calvin trained his voice at age 13, while working in a barber shop. The first group he joined were The Crystals, before meeting the boys of Parliament.
Back then, The Parliaments were a doo-wop group that featured fellow artists Grady Thomas, George Clinton, Ray Davis and Fuzzy Haskins. In 1955, the backroom of a barber shop in Newark, New Jersey became their studio. Calvin ,George and Grady were all working as Barbers, While Ray and Fuzzy were customers at the same shop.
Humble beginnings for the quintet still had them produce beautiful songs.
1. The Parliaments – “Poor Willie” and “Party Boys”
When most people think of New Jersey doo-wop groups, they may refer to The Four Seasons or The Shirelles. The Parliaments are usually an afterthought, considering the amount of Doo-Wop bands that were successful at the time. It was only a matter of time ’til the sound changed. Calvin Simon left Parliament-Funkadelic entirely in 1977.
From the late 50s to the late 70s, P-Funk had gone through tremendous genre-bending changes. From R&B to acid-rock to funk. From New Jersey to Motown to the world.
Calvin was there for most of it. Calvin Simon even saw time in the Vietnam War before returning to music. In his 2014 memoir, he spoke about being drafted after recording P-Funk’s first hit record “(I Wanna) Testify”.
2. The Parliaments – “(I Wanna) Testify”
The thing that means the most to me is how I handled the PTSD from my service in the Vietnam War.
I was able to keep the genie in the bottle, so to speak, and did not allow the evil thoughts to break through and manifest into actions.
After leaving P-Funk in 1977 over financial and naming disputes, Calvin still found a way to make music. Fuzzy, Calvin and Grady released the 42.9%/Connections and Disconnections albums together under the Funkadelic name in 1980.
3. Funkadelic – “Who’s A Funkadelic” Live on Soul Train
The three then reunited back with George, Bootsy and the rest of the Parliament crew for two more albums in 1998 and 2001. P-Funk’s 1997 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame probably made the reasons to reunite even clearer. Later on, Calvin tuned his musical prowess to gospel music.
He returned to his birthplace of Beckley, West Virginia. Then, re-built the Sky Baptist Church where he first learned to sing. After getting re-baptized, he put out his 2004 solo debut, Share the News. He did all of this through his own label, Simon Sayz. In that same year Calvin was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It forced him to cancel a tour and pull the album.
4. Calvin Simon – “Share The News”
After undergoing surgery Calvin released two more Gospel albums, 2016’s It’s Not Too Late and 2018’s I Believe. The music was inspired after the passing of his wife Jennifer, who died from Cancer in 2013.
Even through the process of making more music, he knew that P-Funk’s music and his Gospel music weren’t too different.
There was such a positive message and vibe to the original music of Parliament Funkadelic that was delivered in a fun way.
True music, true arrangements, pure joy. I think long term fans will again relate to that side of the music.
New fans can experience my version of gospel music, which I call ‘Sanctified Funk.’ It’s music without the synthesizers and auto-tuning.
5. Calvin Simon – “I Believe”
6. Calvin Simon – “Needing Someone” Behind The Scenes
The behind the scene video for “Needing Someone” was posted in February of last year. This was his last public video. Calvin Simon really did live a true artist’s life, may he rest in peace.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he was making more music up there.