Life Advice from George Clinton

DETROIT, MI - MARCH 08: George Clinton of George Clinton And Parliament Funkadelic performs at The Soundboard, Motor City Casino on March 8, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images)
Scott Legato/Getty Images

The legendary Dr. Funkenstein, George Clinton, now on the final tour of his career, talks about the upside of old age, dropping acid at Harvard, and—always—funking it, in the latest Life Advice column.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

Do the best you can, and then funk it. Turn it loose, and let the force handle it.

Who told you that?

Back at the barbershop, the old guys. You’d be whining about stuff, and they’d say, “If you know you’ve done your best, funk it. You can’t go back and change it. You can’t do nothing but worry and get headaches and nerves and ulcers.” You can actually mess it up by going back and wishing you had done it different or something.

Who were your heroes growing up?

Those old guys around the barbershop. You had the preachers, the politicians, and the pimps all coming in, getting their hair done, and they would all be talking about the different ways of how they lived their life. They were real neighborhood folk heroes.

You’ll be 78 soon. How should a man handle getting older?

It’s really liberating. Once you get to a certain age, you ain’t got to worry about chasing your natural instincts—the parties, the streets, the sex, the drugs. Once that shit is out of you, you can have a ball in life. As long as they dominate, you’re never gonna be satisfied.

Is getting old underrated?

If you deal with it as a negative, you’ll get older faster. You’ll get older than old. But once it’s appreciated, it’s like, damn.

How should a person handle criticism?

I go out of my way to do stuff that’s real wrong—that ain’t the way it’s supposed to be done—then hoping in the end, once they hear it, they’ll appreciate it. Like “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow”—I knew how to make a straight, clean-cut record, but I was trying to tear down the bridge that says you have to be in a certain bag.

Who’s been the main influence on your life?

Motown, the Beatles, and Sly Stone.

Who was your favorite Beatle?

Oh, wow. It would have to be John. I just liked his rawness…his whole everything.

What role should vanity play in a man’s life?

I can tell myself in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, “Damn, you’ve done some great shit. You the baddest mother on the planet.” But before I come out, I’m going to flush the toilet and leave that shit in there—because I know that I can walk right out there and somebody don’t give a fuck.

Is it important to be humble?

My first thing—my wife will tell you—I say when I wake up in the morning is, “Fuck me.” I say it before anybody else says it, so when they say it, it don’t hurt my feelings. I already know it.

What human quality do you most deplore?

Jealousy.

And what do you most admire?

Empathy.

What adventure most changed your life?

Probably going to Boston when we had our first hit record and taking acid. Some Harvard kids came to the gig and they were all talking about Timothy Leary’s project— blah, blah, blah…tune in, turn on, drop out. So we hung out with them. Everybody was tripping. That changed me from this straight ghetto doo-wop singer to wanting to do a worldwide thing.

What’s the best survival tip you know?

Do the best you can and funk it.

You keep coming back to that.

Always.

How do you want to be remembered when you’re gone? 

Funky.