How Bootsy Saved My Life

 

By Devon “Doc” Wendell

 

Once upon a time life was pretty bleak on my side of the globe. My teenage years were wrought with depression and anxiety problems that plagued my every move and altered my decision making. All I wanted out of life was to be a musician but I was wound way too tightly to make it out of the gate. The doctors gave me all kinds of pills and that only made my day to day existence more miserable. I played the blues on the guitar like someone three times my age because I felt the blues. Some kind of freaky, supernatural, extraterrestrial being needed to come along and shake things up and loosen me up. And one did. His name is William “Bootsy” Collins.

BOOTSY PIC

While in high school, a fellow musician laid it on me. He introduced me to the funkiest music I had ever experienced. This cat had a recording of a young Bootsy playing in James Brown’s band in the early ’70s. The energy was different than the pre-Bootsy Godfather Of Soul recordings I had already heard up to that point. This had a youthful energy that rivaled the power James Brown possessed which is saying a lot. Those bass lines on “Super Bad” and “Get Up I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine” leaped out of the speakers and made you shake your ass, whether you had ever shaken it before or not (I hadn’t.)

At that same time, this friend played me all of the Parliament/Funkadelic records featuring Bootsy not only playing bass, but composing, arranging, and playing both killer guitar and drums as well. Next, I was indoctrinated by the sounds of Bootsy’s Rubber Band, The Sweat Band, and all of Bootsy’s records from the ’70s, ’80s, up to that time which was 1990 . Bootsy didn’t sound like Larry Graham or James Jamerson. Some describe his tone as “liquid” “rubbery” or “elastic” but I describe it as sounding the way good sex feels. What could be better? Bootsy’s sense of syncopation and dynamics opened up an entirely new universe for bass players in all genres of music.

And so I immersed myself in all of these gloriously stanky records. I found every Bootsy recording I could get my hands on and went to see every Bootsy show in New York. Then something miraculous started to happen; the depression left me. No more thoughts of suicide or sleeping for days on in. The collective funk beauty of Bootsy, Phelps “Catfish” Collins, Frankie “Kash” Waddy, Gary “Mudbone” Cooper, Robert “P-Nut” Johnson, Joel “Razor Sharp-Sharp” Johnson, Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, Richard “Kush” Griffith and Rick Gardner eased the pain and got this one time wallflower out dancing with pride and without a care in the world. It’s as if his music is designed to take you out of the darkness and give you a “little light under the sun.” I even went out and bought a bass and still get more work as a bass player than as a guitarist to this day, so I became a better musician too.

Of course I must also mention Dr. Funkenstein himself, George Clinton, The Woo Wizard Bernie Worrell, Garry Shider, Eddie Hazel, Michael Hampton, and all of the contributing P-Funkers who made funk music a lifestyle, culture and way of life with Bootsy as co-pilot of The Mothership. The #1 Funkateer on the planet. It’s impossible to feel unhappy or stressed out when you hear Bootsy play that signature Space Bass. Depression could have consumed me at a very early age and even taken my life but this is the true tale of how Bootsy saved my life. So as we near the 40th anniversary of the formation of Bootsy’s Rubber Band this summer, I must say thank you Bootsy and “ever funkin’ on!”