Calvin Simon, a founding member of parliament-Funkadelic, died on Thursday. He was 79 years old.
Former P-Funk bassist Bootsy Collins announced Simon’s death on Instagram. “We lost another original Member of Parliament/Funkadelic,” he wrote. “A friend, bandmate and a cool classic man, Mr. Calvin Simon was a former Member of Parliament/Funkadelic.” A cause of death was not immediately available.
Simon joined George Clinton’s doo-wop group The Parliaments in the late fifties along with singers Fuzzy Haskins and Grady Thomas. He remained a member of the group through its various permutations, from R&B to acid-rock to funk, until 1977, when he left over disputes over finances and management. During his tenure with P-Funk, he contributed to Parliament’s classic Mothership Connection And Funkentelechy vs. Placebo Syndrome and Funkadelic’s maggot Brain And cosmic slope. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 along with several other members of parliament—Funkadelic.
“Peace be with my p-funk brother,” Clinton wrote on Facebook. “Fly away, Calvin!”
Simon was born on May 22, 1942, in Beckley, West Virginia, where he sang in the church choir for weekly radio broadcasts. At the age of 13, his family moved to New Jersey, where he found a job as a hairdresser. He co-created Parliament with fellow barbers Clinton and Grady Thomas and their clients, Ray Davis and Fuzzy Haskins, who aspired to sound like Frankie Limon and the Teenagers.
In his 2014 memoir, Clinton compared Simon’s voice to that of David Ruffin of the Temptations. The quintet later moved to Detroit in the mid-sixties to be closer to the Motown scene. He eventually scored a hit with “(I Wanna) Testify” in 1967. Simon was drafted that year and served in Vietnam. “What matters most to me is how I handled PTSD from my service in the Vietnam War,” he once said. “I was able to keep the genie in the bottle, so to speak, and not let bad thoughts break down and manifest in actions.”
Parliaments changed their name to Funkadelic after a dispute with their label, and after winning back the rights to their name, they shortened it to Parliament. Up until this point, Parliament was more of a commercial R&B group, while Funkadelic produced less polished underground records. Nevertheless, both bands toured from 1976 to 1981 with a replica “Mothership”.
In his 1997 Rock Hall induction speech, Simon first joked, thanking the “Academy”, which drew laughter from the crowd. Then he got more serious. “I want to thank all our fans and our teammates,” he said. “And I want to thank God for sparing us to be able to achieve this.”
Even years later, when he devoted himself to gospel music, he recognized his place in music as a pioneer. “I see people do a lot over the years,” he said Tampa Bay Times in 2017. “We opened the way for Prince, and Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg. In gospel, Kirk Franklin took one of our tunes for a track. We learned the hard lesson with the record label and people know better now. They know that they themselves need.”
After leaving the group, Simon, Haskins and Thomas released an album, connection and disconnection, in 1981 under the name Funkadelic. The musicians later also used the original P name for the 1998 album. what dat shakein’ and 2001 Introducing the Original P Westbound Souljazzi, He eventually turned his attention to gospel music and made his solo debut, share news, in 2004 on his own Simon Says label; The album made it to number 21. of billboard Gospel Albums Chart, according to their website.
Around that time, he returned to his hometown of Beckley to help build a new building for the Sky Baptist Church, where he was rebaptized. While he was preparing to tour the album, he had trouble singing and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He underwent throat surgery and survived to release the album. it’s still not too late, which came out shortly after Calvin lost his wife Jennifer to cancer, and I believe,
Regarding his gospel music, Simon said it did not detract from the Parliament-Funkadelic spirit. “There was such a positive message and vibe to the original music of Parliament-Funkadelic that was delivered in a fun way,” he said in a press release. I believe, “True music, true arrangements, pure joy. I think longtime fans will relate to that side of music again. New fans can experience my version of gospel music, which I call ‘holy funk. It’s music without synthesizers and auto-tuning.”
In 2017, he hoped to tour and spread the religious message of his new music. “I want to go across the country singing these songs with this music, this message, this band,” he said. Tampa Bay Times, “That’s what I’ve wanted to do with my whole life. I hope that along the way someone will find something in music and it will also bring them to Jesus.”