The Mothership is the space vehicle of George Clinton aka Mr. Funkenstein and his wingmen of Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication. As part of the Parliament-Funkadelic theory, it existed as a fictional vehicle of funk arrival to engage fans who were down with the P-Funk movement. After the success of his hit “Chocolate City,” Clinton said, the Mothership was later developed into a physical prop and a driving force behind his extravagant concerts. The Mothership appeared all across the world at Clinton’s performances in the seventies
The Mothership of Parliament Funkadelic is now in the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Rob Roberts)
But whatever happened to the Mothership?
Mr. P-Funk himself shared his feelings about the Mothership’s induction into the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Clinton cleared the air on whether the Mothership at the Smithsonian is the original one or a duplicate, during a concert stop in Washington, D.C. He also vowed to fight for the funk in the halls of Congress and elsewhere, as he emphasized the importance of the Mothership to African-American history and culture.
The following is a lightly edited transcript of the interview with Clinton.
Burton: The Mothership, I have to ask… How did you guys come up with that concept? What was going on at that time?
Clinton: Wow… Back in that time, it was the beginning of looking at this time, or, looking at the future, with things like “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” and all of that. We were thinking of the future, and we did a record for Chocolate City, first, which was about Blacks being places you wouldn’t imagine them being at – like the White House and such.
So, once that worked, we were like, “Damm… that worked? What about outer space?” You don’t see no niggas in outer space. There was a girl named Uhura in “Star Trek.” And most people, you know, couldn’t picture us out there, hanging out. So not only was we hanging out, we was kickin’ back on the spaceship and whatever the current car was, that’s what we was lookin’ at. And what we called P Funk, uncut funk, the bomb… we became, “Man, that’s dope.” That’s what we was tryin’ to portray. With all the futuristic thoughts in your mind, you need a spaceship to reavel back and forth. And I’m still doing it.
Burton: So how do you feel about The Mothership being part of the new Smithsonian opening up in DC?
Clinton: I’m blessed. I feel so blessed. Because that music is a lot of people… a lot of good times. You know, you notice I’ve been in congress and in court fighting for the copyrights and all of that because it’s been respected so much. But being in the Smithsonian, it made me feel I have to fight for this. You know? It’s not something we just did, you know. We just did and worked hard – a lot of people worked hard on it. And it was a historical thing… we were trying to do a funk opera, and we did it. You know? And so we’re gonna keep fighting for it and the mothership being in the Smithsonian gave us good credibility that we can stand behind that.
Burton: Do you think that the Mothership in the museum is the actual one?
Clinton: No, that was the- that was the second one we had. The first one did- did tear apart. It was… still in hub caps, you know? So- so there’s still pieces… You know there’s still stories around D.C. of who got which part. Like someone got the hydraulic, and, you know, other parts are living in somebody else’s garage. But, you know, we had the same group rate – the same number of people, the same people doing the same thing again.
Burton: What do you want to be remembered as?
Clinton: He didn’t give a funk. You know, other than getting these copyright issues on the right side of what they’re supposed to be on the right side of history, where they’re supposed to be – that’s really trying to change history, who did what, you know, and we can’t let this happen again. It happened with rock and roll, you know, Chuck Berry and… Little Richard and a lot of them, people don’t realize that was the beginning of that rock and roll. If it wasn’t for Jimmy Hendrix, we wouldn’t have had no claiming of it at all. We’ll never let that happen with funk. We gon’ fight for it, and keep it- history correct. And make it be accountable. And then the Smithsonian was a great place for it to stand for it, and now we just have to get the paperwork to reflect that. Cause’ people are busy trying to change, you know, the copyrights and stuff.