Tony Cummings spoke to veteran West Virginia-based gospel singer CALVIN SIMON about his roots in P-Funk
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Calvin: "Well, I'll put it to you this way: I had been a member of the Parliaments since 1958 and it continued up to 1966, until I got drafted. I went and spent my two years in the military and I came back and I re-joined and I didn't leave until 1979. The reason it looked that way, I'm one of the founding members, we made an agreement that it was easier to focus the attention on one personality than on all five personalities. So that's why George was mainly put out in front of all of us. These were the things that were happening behind the scenes that people didn't know about. It was easier to put George out there and less expensive for us because to have one person travelling back and forth getting the gigs and talking to people it was a lot cheaper than all five of us trying to get out there to do it. It had the appearance that George was everything but George was not everything because there were five of us that started this and if we hadn't sacrificed 25 years with our families and all the other situations people thought we weren't doing nothing at all, there wouldn't have been Parliament-Funkadelic or George Clinton."
Tony: What about the lifestyle? The impression was always given that Funkadelic did a lot of drugs. Were you doing a lot of drugs?
Calvin: "There were a lot of drugs involved. I have experimented from time to time but it was a very short period of time for me. You have to give the appearance of what you're doing because everybody expects you to be that way because that's what they see on stage. Once you come off the stage that's when the man takes over and that's what took over with me. I did what I had to do on stage because I was part of the group. But once the spotlights are out, the best friend of man takes over and that's where I took over my life with my decisions."
Tony: Your dear wife died of cancer, didn't she? What year was that?
Calvin: "That was 2013."
Tony: Were there lots of women in your life besides her? Again, part of the idea we get of funk and rock bands is there are always available women around.
Calvin: "When I was young and single, there were a lot of women around and a lot of women in my life. But once I found the one that I loved and got married to her then it was just her and I against the world. It was an honour to have been able to have 44 lovely, great years with the lady of my life."
Tony: A lot of people say that the whole world of R&B represents women in a very negative way, as sex objects kind of thing. How would you respond to that criticism?
Calvin: "Everybody is entitled to their opinion but I treat women with the highest regard and respect because they deserve it. Some of the younger people coming up now I don't quite understand the derogatory terms they use towards women but those are decisions that they have got to deal with."
Tony: Tell me about your more recent music career. You've got a gospel album out now, but it's not the first gospel release you've had, is it?
Calvin: "I've done three gospel CDs. I did one called 'Share The News' which made it to 21 on the Billboard Gospel charts. I also did one called 'It's Not Too Late' and my latest one is called 'I Believe'. Because I do, I believe in him the same way he believes in me."
Tony: 'I Believe' is currently being played on the Cross Rhythms radio stations. To your knowledge is this the first time that you've had UK radio stations playing your music?
Calvin: "This is the first time we've got national notice with my music. I have a feeling that sometimes in the Christian and gospel community, they have a hard time accepting something new. They know a lot of people jump back and forth from R&B to Christian. But the thing for me is that the music that I'm doing is music of tomorrow. It's the same music that we led Parliament-Funkadelic with the only difference is, you got the same G chord or A minor or whatever but it's the lyrics that you put on top of it. With my experience and the things God has brought me through, cancer, heart attacks, Vietnam - I mean, he's brought me through so much that I have so much to talk about. It's really a pleasure to be able to talk about that and it's the most gratification that I have ever received, what I'm doing now, even with all the things that we did in the past, because this is personal and it's coming directly from me and not from a group situation."
Tony: Parliament/Funkadelic were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1997. Had you seen all the guys since you left them?