A musical prodigy, he began formal piano lessons by age three and wrote a concerto at age eight. He went on to study at Juilliard and the New England Conservatory of Music. As a college student around 1970, Worrell played with a group called Chubby & The Turnpikes (later to be known as Tavares). The drummer in that band was Joey Kramer, who left in October 1970 to be a founding member of the rock band Aerosmith. After meeting George Clinton, leader of a doo wop group called The Parliaments, Worrell, Clinton, The Parliaments and their backing band, The Funkadelics, moved to Detroit, Michigan, and became collectively known as Parliament-Funkadelic.
During the 1970s the same group of musicians separately recorded under the names Parliament and Funkadelic, (among several others), but toured as P-Funk. Worrell played grand piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, Hohner Clavinet, Hammond B3 organ, ARP String Ensemble and Moog synthesizer, co-wrote, and wrote horn and rhythm arrangements on hit recordings for both groups and other associated bands under the "Parliafunkadelicment Thang" production company, and many of his most notable performances were recorded with Bootsy's Rubber Band, Parlet, The Brides of Funkenstein and The Horny Horns. Worrell recorded a 1978 solo album, All the Woo in the World, with the musical backing of P-Funk's members. While funk musicians traditionally utilized electric keyboards, such as the Hammond organ and Fender Rhodes electric piano, Worrell was the second recipient of the Moog synthesizer created by Bob Moog. Mainly responsible for creating Parliament's futuristic sound, Worrell's use of the Minimoog bass on the Parliament song "Flash Light", on 1977's Funkentelechy Vs.
the Placebo Syndrome, heavily influenced the sound of R&B music and served as a bridge between American R&B and the insurgence of new wave, new age and techno. He used the ARP Pro Soloist as well. Worrell's synthesizer work is prominent on the majority of Parliament's most popular (and most sampled) songs throughout the 1970s, most notably "Mothership Connection (Star Child)" and "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)" from Mothership Connection (1975) and "Aqua Boogie" from Motor Booty Affair (1978). When Parliament-Funkadelic took a hiatus from touring in the early 1980s, Worrell was recruited, along with other musicians from differing musical genres such as guitarist Adrian Belew, to perform and record with Talking Heads, a pioneering new wave band. Worrell's experience and feel for different arrangements enhanced the overall sound of the band.
Though he never officially joined Talking Heads, he was a de facto member of the group for most of the '80s, appearing on one of their studio albums, several solo albums, and multiple tours until they officially disbanded in 1991. Worrell can be seen in the band's concert film Stop Making Sense. Worrell was invited to perform with Talking Heads at their one-off reunion as part of their 2002 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Worrell co-produced Fred Schneider's 1984 solo album Fred Schneider and the Shake Society and played keyboards and synthesizers on some of the album's tracks. From the late 1980s through the 2010s, Worrell recorded extensively with Bill Laswell, including Sly and Robbie's Laswell-produced Rhythm Killers and the 1985 Fela Kuti album Army Arrangement. Worrell performed with Gov't Mule.
Through the beginning of the 21st century, he became a visible member of the jam band scene, performing in many large summer music festivals, sometimes billed as Bernie Worrell and the Woo Warriors. He appeared on several Jack Bruce albums, including A Question of Time, Cities of the Heart, Monkjack and More Jack than God. In 1994, Worrell appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation album, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool. The album, meant to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in the African-American community, was heralded as "Album of the Year" by TIME Magazine. Worrell joined the rock group Black Jack Johnson, with Mos Def, Will Calhoun, Doug Wimbish and Dr. Know.
He appears with the band on Mos Def's 2004 release The New Danger. Worrell joined forces with bass legend Les Claypool, guitarist Buckethead and drummer Bryan Mantia to form the group Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains. Worrell's project Baby Elephant was a collaboration with Stetsasonic member/De La Soul producer Prince Paul and longtime Paul associate Don Newkirk. Released September 11, 2007, Turn My Teeth Up! featured George Clinton, Shock G, Yellowman, Reggie Watts, Nona Hendryx, David Byrne and Gabby La La. In 2009, he joined longtime Parliament-Funkadelic guitarist DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight, bassist Melvin Gibbs and drummer J.T. Lewis to form the band SociaLybrium.
Their album For You/For Us/For All was released on Livewired Music in January 2010. Worrell appeared in the 2004 documentary film Moog with synthesizer pioneer Bob Moog and several other Moog synthesizer musicians. In 2011, he toured with Bootsy Collins, another major figure from Parliament-Funkadelic. From 2011 through 2015, Worrell performed with his group, the Bernie Worrell Orchestra. The band became known for the appearance of special guests at live performances, including Bootsy Collins, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, Jimmy Destri, Mike Watt, Rah Digga and Gary Lucas. Worrell worked on the Seattle based Khu.éex' project fusing traditional Tlingit music with funk, jazz, and experimental music. The protect includes Preston Singletary, Skerik, Stanton Moore, and Randall Dunn among others. In 2015, Worrell appeared in the movie Ricki and the Flash as the keyboard player in Meryl Streep's band.
The movie reunited Worrell with director Jonathan Demme, who had directed Stop Making Sense. Worrell was a judge for the 12th, 13th, and 14th annual Independent Music Awards. During May 2016, the New England Conservatory of Music gave Worrell, who studied at the school until 1967, an honorary Doctor of Music degree. In January 2016, Worrell was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. He relocated from New Jersey, his long-time home, to Bellingham, Washington. A tribute and benefit concert to raise funds for Worrell's cancer treatment, produced by the Black Rock Coalition and featuring musicians with whom Worrell has worked over his career, occurred on April 4 and 5, 2016. Bernie Worrell died at the age of 72 on June 24, 2016. Stranger: Bernie Worrell on Earth is a documentary film about Worrell's life, music and impact. At AllMovie, critic Mark Deming wrote that the film "profiles his life and career while also examining how even a genius has to find a way to make a living". Discography Solo albums 1978: All the Woo in the World 1990: Funk of Ages 1993: Blacktronic Science 1993: Pieces of Woo: The Other Side 1997: Free Agent: A Spaced Odyssey 2007: Improvisczario 2009: Christmas Woo 2010: I Don't Even Know 2011: Standards 2013: BWO Is Landing (credited as "The Bernie Worrell Orchestra") 2014: Elevation: The Upper Air 2016: Retrospectives Funkadelic 1970: Funkadelic 1970: Free Your Mind... and Your Ass Will Follow 1971: Maggot Brain 1972: America Eats Its Young 1973: Cosmic Slop 1974: Standing on the Verge of Getting It On 1975: Let's Take It to the Stage 1976: Tales of Kidd Funkadelic 1976: Hardcore Jollies 1978: One Nation Under a Groove 1979: Uncle Jam Wants You 1996: Live: Meadowbrook, Rochester, Michigan – 12th September 1971 2008: Toys (recorded 1970–74) 2014: First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate Parliament 1970: Osmium 1974: Up for the Down Stroke 1975: Chocolate City 1975: Mothership Connection 1976: The Clones of Dr.
Funkenstein 1977: Live: P-Funk Earth Tour 1977: Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome 1978: Motor Booty Affair 1979: Gloryhallastoopid 1980: Trombipulation Selected contributions to other albums 1981: Jerry Harrison, The Red and the Black 1982: Talking Heads, The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads 1983: Talking Heads, Speaking in Tongues 1984: Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense 1984: Fred Schneider, Fred Schneider and the Shake Society 1985: Fela Kuti, Army Arrangement 1986: Ginger Baker, Horses & Trees 1992: Praxis, Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis) 1995: Julian Schnabel, Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud 2001: Shin Terai, Unison 2004: Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains, The Big Eyeball in the Sky 2004: Mos Def, The New Danger 2006: Gigi, Gold & Wax 2007: Shin Terai, Lightyears 2007: Praxis, Tennessee 2004 2008: Praxis, Profanation (Preparation for a Coming Darkness) 2008: Science Faxtion, Living on Another Frequency 2009: Eric McFadden Trio, Delicate Thing Awards Independent Music Awards 2013: "Get Your Hands Off" - Best Funk/Fusion/Jam Song Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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