George Clinton part of the DIA's 'Tales from the Funk' 

Whole lot of rhythm goin' round

The legendary George Clinton is coming to the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts to spin Tales from the Funk this Thursday, Nov. 5. I got a thing, you got a thing, everybody's got a thing — but if you like good old music, I'll bet you don't want to miss this event. Clinton is ready to testify in the name of the funk.

The event is hosted by the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers, a Knight Arts Challenge-funded program of the nonprofit the Society for the Re-Institutionalization of Storytelling. It's one of several events in conjunction with the current DIA exhibition 30 Americans, a showcase of contemporary African-American art, featuring artists such as Kara Walker, Nick Cave, Carrie Mae Weems, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Clinton has no shortage of stories. He's been making music for 60 years, absorbing everything around him in that time. I recently read his highly entertaining memoir Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard On You? and there are great stories every step of the way. He has a unique perspective on how music and culture have evolved since he first caught the music bug and formed a vocal group called the Parliaments as a high school student in New Jersey. Before long he was running his own barbershop called the Silk Palace, which served as a hangout for many neighborhood youngsters, a fair number of whom went on to be members of Parliament-Funkadelic.

There's the time some scared kids sold the barbershop $1.2 million worth of counterfeit bills, which Clinton paid them $2,000 for and used to refurnish the shop and pay for studio time for the next few years. There's the time the band was lost taking an ill-advised shortcut on an early tour and ended up scared shitless in a small town in Ohio surrounded by zombies, which turned out to be the set of Night of the Living Dead. 

Then there's the time they were recording in a Los Angeles studio and a junkie kid wandered in offering to lay down a guitar solo for $25 — which wound up being the smoking "Get Off Your Ass and Jam." (Clinton liked it so much he paid him $50, but never got his name.) That's just a sprinkling of some of the stories from the book, and Clinton assures us there are countless more that didn't make it into print.

The theme of the night at the DIA is "Transformation," and will also feature the storytellers Austen Brantley and Dwight "Skip" Stackhouse, musical performance by Thornetta Davis, and a dance performance by the Legacy Competition Dancers. Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers founder Satori Shakoor will host the evening.

Tales from the Funk takes place Thurs. Nov. 5 at the Detroit Institute of Arts; starts at 7:30 p.m.; 5300 Woodward Ave. Detroit; dia.org; Tickets range from $23.50 to $53.50.

More by Shelley Salant

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