Calvin Simon, Parliament-Funkadelic Co-Founder, Dead at 79

Calvin Simon, founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic, died Thursday. He was 79 years old.

Former P-Funk bassist Bootsy Collins announced Simon’s death on Instagram. “We have lost another original Member of Parliament / Funkadelic,” he wrote. “A friend, band member and classic cool guy, Mr. Calvin Simon was a former Member of Parliament / Funkadelic.” The cause of death was not immediately available.

Simon joined George Clinton’s doo-wop group, Parliaments in the late 1950s, with singers Fuzzy Haskins and Grady Thomas. He continued to be a member of the group through his various permutations, from R&B to acid-rock to funk, until 1977 when he left finance and management disputes. During his tenure with P-Funk he contributed to the Parliament classic Mother ship connection and Funkentelechy versus placebo syndrome and Funkadelic’s Maggot brain and Cosmic slop. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside many other Members of Parliament-Funkadelic in 1997.

“Rest in peace to my brother P-Funk,” Clinton wrote on Facebook. “Fly away, Calvin! “

Simon was born on May 22, 1942 in Beckley, West Virginia, where he sang in the church choir for weekly radio broadcasts. His family moved to New Jersey when he was 13, where he found work as a barber. He partnered with other barbers Clinton and Grady Thomas and their clients, Ray Davis and Fuzzy Haskins, to form Parliaments, which aspired to be like Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.

In his 2014 memoir, Clinton compared Simon’s voice to that of David Ruffin from the Temptations. The quintet then moved to Detroit in the mid-1960s to be closer to the Motown scene. They eventually scored a hit with “(I Wanna) Testify” in 1967. Simon was drafted that year and served in Vietnam. “What matters most to me is the way I have handled PTSD since my service in the Vietnam War,” he once said. “I was able to keep the genie in the bottle, so to speak, and I did not allow bad thoughts to come through and manifest into actions.”

Parliaments changed their name to Funkadelic after a dispute with their label, and after recovering the rights to their name, they shortened it to Parliament. At this point Parliament was more of a commercial R&B group while Funkadelic was making less polished underground records. Nevertheless, the two groups toured together with a replica of the “mother ship” from 1976 to 1981.

In his Rock Hall induction speech in 1997, Simon first joked thanking “the Academy”, which made the crowd laugh. Then he got more serious. “I want to thank all of our fans and our peers,” he said. “And I would also like to thank God for sparing us so that I could receive this.”

Even years later, after devoting himself to gospel music, he recognized his place in music as a pioneer. “I see a lot of things that people have done over the years,” he told the Tampa Bay weather in 2017. “We paved the way for Prince, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. In gospel, Kirk Franklin took one of our songs for a song. We learned the hard lessons with the record companies and now people know better. They know they need to own themselves.

After leaving the band, Simon, Haskins and Thomas released an album, Connections and Disconnections, under the name Funkadelic in 1981. The musicians also later used the name Original P for the 1998 album What is Dat Shakin ‘ and 2001 Original P Presentation of Souljaz Westbound. He eventually turned his attention to gospel music and made his solo debut, Share the news, in 2004 on his own label Simon Sayz; the album reached number 21 on billboards Table of Gospel albums, according to its website.

Around this time, he returned to his hometown of Beckley to help construct a new building for Sky Baptist Church, where it was renamed. As he prepares to go on tour for the album, he struggles to sing and is diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He had throat surgery and survived to release the albums It is not too late, who came out shortly after Calvin lost his wife Jennifer to cancer, and I believe.

When it comes to his gospel music, Simon argued that his mind was no different from Parliament-Funkadelic. “There was such a positive message and vibe to the original Parliament-Funkadelic music which was delivered in a fun way,” he said in a press release for I believe. “Real music, real arrangements, pure joy. I think longtime fans will relate to this side of music again. New fans can check out my version of gospel music, which I call “Sanctified Funk”. It’s music without synthesizers or automatic tuning.

In 2017, he hopes to go on tour and spread the religious message of his new music. “I want to travel the country singing these songs, with this music, this message, this group,” he told the Tampa Bay weather. “That’s what I want to do with the rest of my life. I hope that someone along the way will find something in the music and that will also bring them to Jesus.

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