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The P Funk Mothership, also known as The Holy Mothership, is a space vehicle belonging to Dr. Funkenstein, an alter ego of George Clinton. An integral part of the P-Funk mythology, the Mothership existed conceptually as a fictional vehicle of funk deliverance and as a physical prop central to Parliament-Funkadelic concerts during the 1970s and 1990s.
During their heyday in the mid to late 1970s, following the success of their platinum-selling album, 1975's Mothership Connection, George Clinton and his band Parliament Funkadelic - the Funk Mob - engaged in a series of high profile, no-expenses-spared stadium tours around the United States, culminating in the famous P Funk Earth Tour. At these gigs, the much referenced Mothership was seen to land on stage amongst the band and before a baying and expectant crowd. The Mothership was summoned down by the vocal tones of P Funk singer/guitarists Glenn Goins and later Garry Shider, and was represented in the form of a full-scale model complete with light and sound effects as well as pyrotechnics. At this point in the show George Clinton would emerge from the Mothership in the form of Dr. Funkenstein, the "cool ghoul with the bump transplant", in order to better administer funk to the audience.
Later years and retirement
For many years, the landing of the Mothership was only alluded to at live concerts, due to the prohibitive cost of maintaining the elaborate stage-show. In fact, the Mothership itself had been discarded. In 1996, following the release of T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership), George Clinton launched the "Mothership Reconnection Tour" with Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, and the latest incarnation of P Funk, the "P Funk All Stars". The Mothership Reconnection Tour, which began in New York's Central Park, required a reconstruction of the 1970s Mothership, and the concerts included the landing of the Mothership, albeit on a smaller scale.
For a few years after the Mothership Reconnection Tour, the Mothership would land periodically at the P Funk All Stars concerts, particularly those at larger venues. One of the last appearances of the Mothership was at Woodstock 1999. Since 1999, the landing of the Mothership has been strictly metaphoric.
The Mothership found a new home in 2011 when the Smithsonian Institution acquired it. The concert prop started as a symbol of "what could be", and with its place in the Smithsonian, the Mothership has continued its legacy. It is now located in the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.
- Richards, Chris (May 18, 2011). "Smithsonian acquires Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- Fawcett, Kirstin (June 10, 2014). "Watch George Clinton's P-Funk Mothership Get Reassembled For Its Museum Debut". Smithsonian.com.
- Richards, Chris (April 12, 2010). "In Maryland, George Clinton, Parliament-Funkadelic and a Missing Mothership". The Washington Post.
- Richards, Chris (April 12, 2010). "George Clinton, Bernie Worrell, Garry Shider and Others on the Search for the Mothership". The Washington Post.