Saturday, April 9, 2016

Bernie Worrell

Bernie Worrell, Toronto, April 1987

I DON'T REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME I HEARD P-FUNK. Like most people, I knew about them in the '70s when the Mothership tour made its way around the world and George Clinton's band of freaks were - quite against the odds - a commercial success. I do know that I really learned about them at Nerve, under the tutelage of my friend Tim Powis, who had pretty near everything they recorded.

The closest I'd get to P-Funk during those years, though, was when Bernie Worrell, the band's keyboardist, showed up in Toronto as part of Anton Fier's Golden Palominos. He'd already been a key player in the Talking Heads at the peak of their success, appearing on several of their albums and in the concert movie Stop Making Sense. He was a star as far as I was concerned, which is why I felt so timid approaching him after the Golden Palominos' soundcheck at the El Mocambo in the spring of 1987.

Bernie Worrell, Toronto, April 1987

I shot Worrell sitting at his Hammond B3, holding a flash with one hand and tripping the shutter of my Mamiya C330 with the other. I only took four frames out of a roll of twelve, which was itself one of the first dozen I shot with my first medium format camera. These are two of those frames. They're primitive but at least they're sharp, and look a little like something you'd put on the cover of a Blue Note record. Nobody has seen these since I shot them almost three decades ago.

Bernie Worrell has had an interesting career in and outside of the P-Funk organization, and had a documentary film made about him about a decade ago. He's apparently quite sick with cancer right now, and a benefit concert was held for him in New York City just a few days ago.

Here's my favorite video of early Funkadelic, with George and Eddie Hazel and Bootsy and Bernie at centre stage at his Hammond. It was taped for some midwestern teen TV show, where Funkadelic apparently preceded Bobby Sherman. I can only imagine the effect they'd have had on the audience tuned in that day. The world used to be a lot more interesting.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Rick,
    Not sure if you heard but sad news. Bernie Worrell passed on the 24th of June.