(Top photo by George Pacciello)
While I’m at work on The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell, I thought it would be fun to share some of Bernie’s keyboard, composition, and production contributions from throughout his career, particularly outside of Parliament-Funkadelic. Bernie’s influence spread far wider than he is given credit for.
In 1988, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards released his first solo album, Talk is Cheap. The album is decidedly funkier than what he was doing with the Stones, thanks to the nature of the compositions written by Richards and drummer Steve Jordan. Another key element was the musicians Richards saw fit accompany him. Among them was Bernie Worrell.
Bernie’s contributions weren’t always heard up front in the mix. But they were always part of the groove holding the sound together. Such was the case in the album’s opener, “Big Enough.”
When Bernie did step to the front, he gave the song exactly what it needed. No more, no less. “Make No Mistake” could have easily come from the Memphis-based Stax Records in the early 1970’s. Bernie’s organ and clavinet were the main reason why. It’s a prime example of what Bernie called “Making it fit,” which is all he ever wanted his keyboards to do.
Bernie’s sound could fit any context. so it should hardly be a surprise that he was part of Black Jack Johnson, fronted by legendary MC Mos Def, for the 2004 album The New Danger.
The rest of the band consisted of guitarist Gary Miller, bassist Doug Wimbish, and drummer Will Calhoun. The band combined hip-hop, rock, and soul to create a groovy mix Bernie knew just how to augment.
Bernie’s musical voice was one for the ages, because it was one of the ages.
Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs) My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers. I’m currently working on my next book, The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell.
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