Bernie Worrell, Parliament-Funkadelic Keyboardist, Dies at 72

Musician was also known for his work with Talking Heads

Last Updated: June 24, 2016 @ 4:17 PM

Bernie Worrell, the keyboardist and composer who was known as an early member of Parliament-Funkadelic, died Friday, according to his website. He was 72.

A Facebook account purporting to belong to Worrell bore the message, “At 11:54, June 24, 2016, Bernie transitioned Home to The Great Spirit. Rest in peace, my love — you definitely made the world a better place. Till we meet again, vaya con Dios.”

Worrell had been battling lung cancer.

The musician, also known for his work with Talking Heads, was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, in 1944.

In the 1970s, he met George Clinton, leader of doo-wop group The Parliaments, and the pair joined forces, moving the Parliaments and their backing band the Funkadelics to Detroit and merging them into the musical powerhouse Parliament-Funkadelic.

Worrell’s keyboard work, which gave Parliament-Funkadelic a futuristic flair thanks to his use of the Moog synthesizer, is prominently featured on songs such as “Mothership Connection (Star Child)” and “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker).”

During a hiatus from Parliament-Funkadelic in the 1980s, Worrell was brought aboard to play with Talking Heads, becoming a de facto member. He collaborated with a wide array of musicians throughout his career, including Primus bass player Les Claypool, Bill Laswell, Cream bass player Jack Bruce and many others.

Worrell was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer in January. In May, his wife Judie said that the musician could “barely speak.”

“Tumor has grown and Recurrent laryngeal nerve is pressing on vocal cord, paralyzing it,” she wrote on Worrell’s Facebook page. “Treatment starts Tuesday to (hopefully) shrink tumor before it gets to other vocal cord and/or shuts down breathing. VERY difficult time for him.”


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