Music icon George Clinton returns to Newark school for 80th birthday celebration
Music fans of a certain age will remember the musical sounds of George Clinton – known as the Godfather of Funk. But some younger people may not know that Clinton is the second most sampled musician in history behind James Brown.
Some of those younger people got the chance to meet Clinton on Thursday as he returned to his alma mater of Avon Avenue Elementary School in Newark to celebrate his 80th birthday. First and second graders lined the hallways to welcome Clinton, and a band of teachers and students helped him bring on the funk like nobody else could.
“I’m not going to sit up here and try to tell you how happy I am, because I’m choked up,” Clinton said.
It was a chance for the city and the school to honor their famous alum. And it was a chance for Clinton to give the love right back to the place where he first started to imitate doo-wopper Frankie Lymon as a fifth grader on the playground after school.
It was the start of a career that would launch Clinton’s bands Parliament and Funkadelic into music history and became a foundation for much of the rock ‘n’ roll, R&B and hip hop that would follow.
Clinton received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
“I’m overwhelmed. I feel so good I want to jump up and shout,” Clinton said of the Avon Avenue School celebration. “I’ve been dreaming about this years, just being able to come back to Avon Avenue School and to come to this music room. It’s overwhelming,” Clinton said.
Clinton then cut the ribbon on the renamed George Clinton Band Room, which was outfitted with newly donated equipment. He then took in a new mural by Newark artist Steve Green.
“Our vision is that we will build skilled leaders who positively impact their community and the world, and that’s exactly what he has done,” says Avon principal Charity Haygood.
Haygood says Clinton is an example for the students. He, meanwhile, says the kids teach him a few new things when it comes to music.
“Kids have new music all the time. The music that gets on your nerve, that’s always the new music,” Clinton said. “So if you pay attention to the kids, they’ll always deliver to you. You won’t have to be as old as you think you are if you just let them have their turn and it makes you fresh again.”
The honors for Clinton continued in Plainfield where he works as a barber for several years with the renaming of Passaic Street after him.
The celebration caps off on Friday night with the grand birthday finale – a performance by Clinton and Parliament and Funkadelic at NJPAC in Newark.