William “Bootsy” Collins is 56 years old today. Which is very worth celebrating.
Bootsy is a unique figure in black pop. Influential as a bass player, as a vocalist, as a songwriter, as a sideman, as a front man... good Lord, the ’70s wouldn’t have sounded the same without him.
Start with James Brown. Because in March of 1970, an 18-year-old Bootsy Collins and his Cincinnati bar band, the Pacemakers, were pulled into service as James Brown’s road band (soon to be christened “the J.B.’s”).
Then they went into the recording studio with Soul Brother No. 1.
In one year with James Brown, Bootsy and his boys played on these classic recordings: “Sex Machine,” “Super Bad,” “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved,” “Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothing,” “Soul Power.”
Bootsy was also dropping acid. Which meant that he wasn’t destined for a long tour of duty with Brown.
In 1972, George Clinton recruited Bootsy and his band into Funkadelic. Now that was a match made in heaven. Bootsy contributed such classic grooves as “Cosmic Slop” and “Tear the Roof Off the Sucker” (which I just heard on a new MasterCard commercial last night).
In 1976, Clinton spun off Bootsy Collins into a satellite act: Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Mo’ money, mo’ money...
I’m streaming a couple of MP3s as a salute to Bootsy’s golden youth.
Click here to hear “The Message from the Soul Sisters,” recorded by Vicki Anderson in 1970. This, of course, was a James Brown production. (Bobby Byrd laid down that mean piano hook.) This track is available on the double-CD “James Brown’s Original Funky Divas.”
Click here for “Hollywood Squares,” from Bootsy’s 1978 LP “Player of the Year.”