Music legend Bootsy Collins wants kids to ‘Funk Not Fight’ with Garfield Heights program
Bootsy Collins remembers growing up in Cincinnati, then-home of R&B powerhouse King Records, and idolizing its biggest star, James Brown.
“He really took us off the streets,” Collins said, remembering the unlikely call in 1968 for Bootsy’s group the Pacemakers to become Brown’s backing band, the J.B’s. “That alone taught me a lot.”
The funk legend visits the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Thursday to carry on that spirit of mentorship with the announcement of his “Funk Not Fight” nonviolence initiative.
“Taking a young kid off the street and letting him make something out of himself, why not do it for others?” he said. “The whole message is to try to help calm the violence that's going on everywhere in everybody's communities. We want to lend our hand.”
“Funk Not Fight” is a partnership with Garfield Heights-based nonprofit, the Village, to provide counseling, safe spaces and eventually a music studio for young people. Collins and his wife, Patti, were in the planning stages of the program as the coronavirus pandemic hit. When it came time to unveil it, they were invited to Cleveland.
“The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is like family to us,” she said.
Bootsy was inducted in 1997 for his legendary work with Parliament-Funkadelic in the 1970s and ‘80s. It was the first ceremony to be held in Cleveland – a city which Collins said is too often the underdog.
“That's kind of the way funk was taken back when we were starting,” he said. "Nobody really took it seriously, and then it just started catching on. Now, you can't get arrested unless you know something about the funk."
The most important musical lesson he’s learned in six decades – which he hopes to impart through “Funk Not Fight” – is “The One.” It’s the first beat of a measure and the cornerstone of funk, soul, R&B and hip hop.
"You have to always come back to 'The One' no matter where you go. It's that count that starts you off. Even today, in high-tech computers, they always start off with 'The One,’ tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. You’ve got to start with ‘The One’ and you wind up with ‘The One.’ It makes us all unite as one. And that's what, to me, 'The One' is all about."
Bootsy and Patti are discussing James Brown, George Clinton and “The One” at the Rock Hall Thursday as part of a panel, including Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne, Garfield Heights Mayor Matt Burke and Maple Heights Mayor Annette Blackwell. They’ll also unveil a compilation album as part of the project featuring new talent alongside Buckethead, Larry Graham, Marcus Miller, Cindy Blackman Santana, Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart and Collins himself.