On December 15, 1975, the Mothership had landed.
Mothership Connection is the fourth Parliament album, and the second to be released in that year, following March’s Chocolate City, however, this was a very different album and one that would come to define Parliament for the rest of the career.
Very much a concept album, George Clinton commented on the album “We had put black people in situations nobody ever thought they would be in, like the White House. I figured another place you wouldn’t think black people would be was in outer space.” This space concept remained a feature of their live shows during the 1970s with shows beginning with the spaceship landing as part of the arrival of Dr. Funkenstein.
Journalist Frasier McAlpine, writing for the BBC, stated that “As a reaction to an increasingly fraught 1970s urban environment in which African-American communities faced the end of the optimism of the civil rights era, this flamboyant imagination (and let’s be frank, exceptional funkiness) was both righteous and joyful. And this is a very pertinent point. Jennie Berman Eng points out that “[t]he mothership is portrayed as a salvation, perhaps transporting the band, and its fans, to another time and place.”
1975, like much of the period, was fraught with progression and regression. 1975 (arguably) saw the end of the Black Power movement who challenged established black leadership for their cooperative attitudes and nonviolence, demanding political and economic self-sufficiency. It also saw the death of Elijah Muhammad (1897–1975), founder of the Nation of Islam. His son Wallace D. Muhammad (1933–2008) succeeded him as the leader, creating a new direction for the group, thus ending the separatist philosophy that saw white people as “white devils” and changing its name to the World Community of Islam in the West. However, it was also the year Arthur Ashe (1943–1993) became the first Black person to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, defeating Jimmy Connors. With more black members in Congress, with numerous female politicians in prominent positions times were slowly changing.
Often rated as among the best Parliament releases, it was the first to feature former James Brown in the J.B.’s horn players Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley, both of whom also went on to have their own solo careers, with Parker later performing and recording with Prince between 2004-2011.
A milestone not just in Funk history, but also in music History, Mothership Connection remains a huge influence on music today, with tracks such as “P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)” and “Tear The Roof Off The Sucker” helping pave the way for the rise of hip hop. As the music progressed into a more synthesised version of itself, with brass sections being replaced with synthesisers, Mothership Connection remains a testament of brilliant songwriting, showmanship and creativity and how Funk in the 1970s highlighted the best of music-making during that decade.
McAlpine, Frasier. “8 afrofuturist classics everyone needs to hear”. BBC Music. https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/articles/0ebecc1d-d08b-465f-924e-ee037e9231ab
Pak, Eudie, 2021. Shirley Chisholm and the 9 Other First Black Women in Congress. https://www.biography.com/news/shirley-chisholm-black-women-congress-house-representatives
Founder and Editor of Pilgrim House, currently researching folklore and early Welsh Christianity and curator of the archives of the lost village of Pontyddim.