For nearly half a century, Bootsy Collins has been a living embodiment of all things funky.
After getting his start as a teenager in James Brown’s band The J.B.’s in 1970, Collins, 65, emerged as the star-spectacled bassist in George Clinton’s intergalactic Parliament–Funkadelic, co-writing dozens of party-starting classics like “Mothership Connection” and “Give Up the Funk.” Now, he’s back with a feature-filled new LP, World Wide Funk (Oct. 27), his first set in six years, with guests including Iggy Pop, Chuck D and Buckethead.
Below, Collins explains how he became the icon he is today.
MANIFEST YOUR FUTURE
As a kid, Collins spent his days drawing stick figures with star-shaped glasses, making that vision a reality when he came of age in the 1960s. “You start taking LSD and seeing all those colors,” he recalls. “We had the hippie days coming through, and I grew up in that. We got a lot of encouragement about style.”
Established in 2011, the Bootsy Collins Foundation gives instruments to disadvantaged schools. “The slogan is, ‘Say it loud: An instrument for every child,’ ” says Collins, whose wife, Patti, helps run the operation. “Music class made me want to go to school — and worth going through math and science.”
One of Collins’ close collaborators was Bernie Worrell, who died in 2016. He dedicated a track to the keyboardist on World Wide Funk that features music from tapes they recorded around 2002. “Whatever I put down, he made it sound like it was right,” says Collins. “That’s magic.”
LEARN FROM LEGENDS
Collins often clashed with notoriously strict bandleader Brown. “I never had a father in the house, and he taught me that discipline. I needed that,” he says about Brown’s dress code and demand for sobriety. “But when I got with George [Clinton], he allowed me to really find myself and do anything I wanted.”
With the new album, Collins wanted to spread a message of fun and positivity in a world overwhelmed by tragedy and sadness. “I felt this record should be more upbeat because people are kind of down; a lot of negative stuff going on,” he says. “We ain’t got no balance no more. And funk is here to help funk that up.”