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George Clinton, Living Colour, Meryl Streep & More Join Forces for Bernie Worrell Benefit Concert

Bernie Worrell 2016
Matthew Eisman/Getty Images

Bernie Worrell performs live at 'A Night Of Improvised Round Robin Duets' during the 2013 Red Bull Music Academy at Brooklyn Masonic Temple on May 1, 2013 in New York City. 

Legendary Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell, who recently revealed he was battling lung, prostate and liver cancer, will be celebrated at a star-studded benefit in his honor Monday night (April 4) at New York City’s Webster Hall.

The event -- named after his 1978 album All the Woo in the World -- will feature appearances and performances by Bootsy Collins, filmmaker Jonathan Demme, George Clinton, Living Colour, Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads, Nona Hendryx, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Meryl Streep, Rick Springfield, Bill Laswell with The Last Poets (Abiodun Oyewole, Umar Bin Hassan, Babatunde and special guests), Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band, Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, and the Black Rock Coalition Orchestra. That same night, Worrell, Collins, and Clinton will make a special appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

Bernie Worrell Diagnosed With Cancer

The event -- spearheaded by Hendryx's Black Rock Coalition (a 30-year nonprofit arts support organization for which Worrell serves on the Board of Directors) and Sweet Relief (a medical expense organization dedicated to veteran artists in need) -- will help raise money for the musician’s health and living expenses as he battles cancer.

Worrell, who was born in Long Branch, New Jersey and will celebrate his 72nd birthday on April 19, will also receive a proclamation from Newark Mayor Ras Baraka in recognition of his contributions as a shining son of New Jersey.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be working with so many wonderful and immensely talented folks like the heart and soul of the event, Nona Hendryx,” said promoter Tony Pallagrosi. “The Black Rock Coalition, George Clinton, Meryl Streep, Jerry Harrison, Paul Shaffer, Living Colour, Rick Springfield, Maceo Parker, Questlove, Jonathan Demme, the list goes on, in our collective effort to help Bernie Worrell, a fellow Jersey guy and arguably the most important and influential keyboardist in the history of funk, in his personal fight against cancer."

Hendryx tells Billboard she was “devastated” when she first heard the news from Worrell’s wife, Judie. The musicians worked together last summer recording in Spain, and Hendryx said she noticed then that Worrell wasn’t well.

“He’s 71 years old, so he wasn’t going to be that spritely anyway, but I could tell he didn’t have his usual energy and he had lost a lot of weight,” she said.

Hendryx said she decided to get a benefit together after seeing so many memorials for other musicians like David Bowie and Glenn Frey after they had already passed away.

“I was being asked to do memorials, and I thought why don’t I do something for Bernie while he is here and he can hear how much people appreciate him?” she said. “He’s not David Bowie but he contributed musically to a genre that set the stage for hip-hop and rap and [artists] like Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. He is the blueprint for the music that they make.”

The evening will feature several collaborations as well as an auction through the Sweet Relief website where fans can bid on autographed guitars from Carlos Santana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In addition, a special remix of David Byrne, Worrell and Hendryx’s song “How Does the Brain Wave” will be available for purchase, as well as Worrell’s album, Retrospectives.

“This is a historic evening,” Hendryx said. “You are not going to see these people in the same place on the same stage anytime soon. Or maybe never again.”

 Streep -- who was the lead singer of the Springfield and Worrell backed band in the Demme directed film Ricki and the Flash -- will present but not perform.

“She said she got rusty,” Hendryx laughed. “She might join us on the finale.”

Asked if Hendryx might persuade Streep to sing a few bars of LaBelle’s hit, “Lady Marmalade,” she laughed.

“That would be pretty good,” she said. “I think she can hold her own. We can segue from “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” into “Lady Marmalade” and get Meryl on the mic. That would be fun.”

General admission tickets are $50 in advance and $60 day of show; VIP tickets are $100 and include a meet and greet, funktastic gift bag, and special seating. 

 

 

 

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