Bernie Worrell, the keyboard player and co-founder with George Clinton of Parliament and Funkadelic, died yesterday (24) at the age of 72. He had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in January. A statement on his Twitter account said: “At 11:54, June 24, 2016, Bernie transitioned Home to The Great Spirit.”
“The Wizard of Woo,” as Worrell was affectionately known, was a key figure in the development of funk music, via such landmark tracks as Parliament’s ‘Tear The Roof Off The Sucker’ and Funkadelic’s ‘One Nation Under A Groove.’ Born in Long Branch, New Jersey in 1944, his mastery of the Moog synthesiser was a vital part of the customised “P-Funk” sound of both groups and he was also an unofficial later member of Talking Heads, playing with them throughout the 1980s and appearing in their Stop Making Sense documentary.
Worrell was inducted in 1997, along with a dozen or so colleagues from Parliament and Funkadelic, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His huge list of credits with other artists included recording with Keith Richards, the Pretenders, Nona Hendryx, Manu Dibango, Fela Kuti and Jack Bruce, appearing on several of the former Cream bassist’s albums including A Question Of Time and More Jack Than God. In 1986, he played on the album Horses & Trees by Bruce’s former Cream colleague Ginger Baker.
Worrell performed live in recent years with his Bernie Worrell Orchestra and, only last year, was a member of the band fronted by Meryl Streep’s character, Ricki Rendazzo, in the film Ricki and the Flash. George Clinton tweeted a simple one-word reaction to the news of the passing of his longtime friend and colleague: “Ungetoverable.”