(April 19, 1944 – June 24, 2016)
Bernie Worrell, composer and keyboardist, lost his fight with lung cancer on Friday. He was 72. Worrell was one of the original funk masters performing with the “Parliament/Funkadelic” and the “Talking Heads”. (for which I will always remember his frenzied playing style)
Worrell was classically trained. Taking up the piano at age 3, he later studied at the Juilliard School and the New England Conservatory of Music.
Among the many P-Funk jams he co-wrote, played on, or co-produced were “Flash Light,” “Atomic Dog,” “Aqua Boogie,” and “Red Hot Mama”.
David Byne of “The Talking Heads” remarked at a benefit concert for Worrell earlier this year – “He gives you the theology of funk. Bernie can take the music to a very cosmic place.”
Worrell released several solo albums, including “All the Woo in the World” and “Funk of Ages”. Presented by Prince, Bernie Worrell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with other members of Parliament-Funkadelic in 1997.
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”. (If you haven’t, I highly recommend checking out Stop Making Sense!)
During May 2016, the New England Conservatory of Music gave Worrell, who studied at the school until 1967, an honorary Doctor of Music degree.
The following video is – “Stranger: Bernie Worrell on Earth”. It is a documentary film about Worrell’s life, music and impact.