Bernie Worrell

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Bernie Worrell
Bernie Worrell - SociaLibrium, Vienna2009 a.jpg
Worrell performing in Vienna in 2009
Background information
Birth name George Bernard Worrell, Jr.
Also known as "Dr. Woo"
Born (1944-04-19) April 19, 1944 (age 71)
Long Branch, New Jersey, United States
Genres Funk, rock, alternative rock, blues rock, rhythm and blues, jazz, psychedelic rock
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, producer
Instruments Keyboards (piano, organ, synthesizers)
Years active 1947–present
Associated acts Parliament-Funkadelic, Talking Heads, Bernie Worrell and the WOO Warriors, Bernie Worrell Orchestra, Praxis, Tom Tom Club, Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains

George Bernard "Bernie" Worrell, Jr. (born April 19, 1944) is an American keyboardist and composer best known as a founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic and for his work with Talking Heads. He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted in 1997 with fifteen other members of Parliament-Funkadelic.


Funk and soul[edit]

Worrell was born in Long Branch, New Jersey and grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey. A musical prodigy, he began formal piano lessons by age three and wrote a concerto at age eight. He went on to study at Juilliard and the New England Conservatory of Music.

As a college student around 1970, Worrell played with a group called Chubby & The Turnpikes (later to be known as Tavares). The drummer in that band was Joey Kramer, who left in October 1970 to be a founding member of the rock band Aerosmith. After meeting George Clinton, leader of a doo wop group called The Parliaments, Worrell, Clinton, The Parliaments and their backing band, The Funkadelics, moved to Detroit, Michigan, and became collectively known as Parliament-Funkadelic. During the 1970s the same group of musicians separately recorded under the names Parliament and Funkadelic, (among several others), but toured as P-Funk. Worrell played the Grand piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, Hohner Clavinet, Hammond B3 organ, Arp String Ensemble and Moog synthesizer, co-wrote, and wrote horn and rhythm arrangements on hit recordings for both groups and other associated bands under the "Parliafunkadelicment Thang" production company, and many of his most notable performances were recorded with Bootsy's Rubber Band, Parlet, The Brides of Funkenstein and The Horny Horns. Worrell recorded a 1978 solo album All the Woo in the World with the musical backing of P-Funk's members.

While funk musicians traditionally utilized electric keyboards, such as the Hammond organ and Fender Rhodes electric piano, Worrell was the second recipient of the Moog synthesizer created by Bob Moog. Mainly responsible for creating Parliament’s futuristic sound, Worrell's use of the Minimoog bass on the Parliament song "Flash Light" from Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome, heavily influenced the sound of R&B music and served as a bridge between American R&B and the insurgence of New Wave, New Age and Techno. He used ARP Pro Soloist as well.[1] Worrell’s synthesizer work is prominent on the majority of Parliament’s most popular (and most sampled)[citation needed] songs throughout the 1970s, most notably ”Mothership Connection (Star Child)” and “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” from Mothership Connection,and "Aqua Boogie" from Motor Booty Affair.

Alternative Music[edit]

After the original Parliament-Funkadelic stopped touring in the early 1980s, Worrell released several solo albums. He was recruited, along with other musicians from differing genres such as Adrian Belew, to perform and record with Talking Heads, a pioneering new wave act. Worrell's experience and feel for different arrangements enhanced the overall sound of the band. Though he never officially joined Talking Heads, he was a de facto member of the group for most of the '80s, appearing on one of their studio albums, several solo albums, and multiple tours until they officially disbanded in 1992. Worrell can be seen in the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense. Worrell was invited to perform with Talking Heads at their one-off reunion as part of their 2002 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[citation needed]

Worrell also co-produced Fred Schneider's 1984 solo album Fred Schneider & the Shake Society, and played keyboards and synthesizers on some of the album's tracks.

Since the late 1980s, Worrell has recorded extensively with Bill Laswell, including Sly and Robbie's Laswell-produced Rhythm Killers and the 1985 Fela Kuti album Army Arrangement. Worrell has also performed with Gov't Mule. Through the beginning of the 21st century, he has become a visible member of the jam band scene, performing in many large summer festivals, sometimes billed as Bernie Worrell and the Woo Warriors. These new funk, groove, and rock bands have embraced Worrell's historical relevance and immense talent. He has appeared on many Jack Bruce albums, including A Question of Time, Cities of the Heart, Monkjack and More Jack Than God.

In 1994, Worrell appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation album, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool. The album, meant to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African American community, was heralded as "Album of the Year" by Time Magazine.[2]

Worrell has since joined the rock group Black Jack Johnson, with Mos Def, Will Calhoun, Doug Wimbish and Dr. Know. He appears with the band on Mos Def's 2004 release The New Danger.

Worrell joined forces with bass legend Les Claypool, guitarist Buckethead and drummer Bryan Mantia to form the group Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains.

In 2005, Worrell collaborated with Bo Diddley producer and Original P guitarist/vocalist Scott "Skyntyte" Free, on the album BananAtomic Mass by "Munkeez Strikin' Matchiz". Worrell's presence is heard throughout, as each of the album's tracks contains an original classical-styled interlude performed by Worrell. He, Diddley and Public Enemy cofounder Chuck D are featured performers on the song "Wreck It", which is the last studio recording by Diddley.

His project Baby Elephant is a collaboration with Stetsasonic member/De La Soul producer Prince Paul and longtime Paul associate Don Newkirk. Released September 11, 2007, Turn My Teeth Up!, features George Clinton, Shock G, Yellowman, Reggie Watts, Nona Hendryx, David Byrne and Gabby La La. In 2009 he joined with longtime Parliament-Funkadelic guitarist and musical director DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight, bassist Melvin Gibbs and drummer J.T. Lewis to form the band "SociaLybrium". Their album "For You/For Us/For All" was released on Livewired Music in January 2010.

Worrell appears in the 2004 documentary film Moog with synthesizer pioneer Bob Moog and several other Moog synthesizer musicians. In 2011, he toured with Bootsy Collins, another major figure of Parliament-Funkadelic.

Since 2011, Worrell has been performing with his group, the Bernie Worrell Orchestra. Known for special guest appearances, Bootsy Collins, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, Jimmy Destri, Mike Watt, Rah Digga and Gary Lucas are some of the artists who have sat in with the group during live performances.

As of 2012, Worrell is touring with Steve Kimock, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess.

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 Jonathon Demme, who had also directed Worrell in Stop Making Sense.

He was a judge for The 12th and 13th Independent Music Awards and was a member of the judging panel again in 2015 for the 14th Annual Independent Music Awards.

Personal life[edit]

Worrell has been a resident of Hampton, New Jersey.[3] In January 2016, Worrell was diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer.[4]


A film entitled "Stranger: Bernie Worrell on Earth" was released about the life, music and impact of Bernie on music. "The Film captures the life and the sound of an overlooked and eccentric musical mastermind who has been compared to Beethoven, Duke Ellington and Jimi Hendrix."[5]


Solo albums

Selected group albums and notable contributions[edit]


Independent Music Awards 2013: "Get Your Hands Off" - Best Funk/Fusion/Jam Song[6]


  1. ^ Joe Bosso. "Bernie Worrell talks vintage synths, ELP, Parliament/ Funkadelic, Talking Heads and more". Retrieved 2015-02-24. 
  2. ^ Stolen Moments: Red Hot & Cool. "Stolen Moments: Red Hot & Cool: Music". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  3. ^ Jordan, Chris. "In New Jersey, legendary keyboardist Bernie Worrell is never far from homeIn New Jersey, legendary keyboardist Bernie Worrell is never far from home", Asbury Park Press, June 21, 2012. Accessed November 14, 2012. "Worrell has brought that sense of fun to millions across the globe, most notably as a member of Parliament-Funkadelic. In the upcoming weeks, his focus will be on his home state of Jersey. His annual Local and Legend festival take place Saturday, June 23, at the Unionville Vineyards in Ringoes, near his home in Hampton."
  4. ^ "Bernie Worrell diagnosed with late-stage cancer". Entertainment Retrieved January 12, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Stranger: Bernie Worrell on Earth (2005)". Retrieved 2014-07-17. 
  6. ^ "THE 12TH ANNUAL INDEPENDENT MUSIC AWARDS WINNERS ANNOUNCED". The Independent Music Awards. Retrieved 2014-07-17. 

External links[edit]