Bernie Worrell
Bernie Worrell
Background information
Born April 19 1944 (1944-04-19) (age 80)
Genre(s) Funk
Occupation(s) Musician, Composer, Producer
Instrument(s) keyboards, vocals
Website bernieworrell.com

George Bernard "Bernie" Worrell, Jr. (born April 19, 1944 died June 24, 2016) was an American keyboardist and composer best known for his work with Parliament-Funkadelic and Talking Heads.


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

As a college student, Worrell played with a group called Chubby & The Turnpikes (later to be known as Tavares). He then met George Clinton, then the leader of a doo wop group called The Parliaments. Soon, Worrell, Clinton, The Parliaments and their backing band (Funkadelic) moved to Detroit, Michigan, and became Parliament. During the 1970s the same group of musicians toured and recorded under both the Parliament and Funkadelic names as well as several others, collectively known as Parliament-Funkadelic. Worrell was a central figure in the group. He played the piano, keyboards and organ in both groups and co-wrote or did the arrangements for many of the bands' hits. He debuted the keyboard synthesizer bass in popular music on the Parliament song " Flash Light." He also recorded a 1978 album with the group, All the Woo in the World, under his own name.

While funk musicians traditionally utilized electric keyboards, such as the Hammond organ and Fender Rhodes electric piano, Bernie Worrell created Parliament’s distinctive riffs with a Minimoog synthesizer. Worrell’s synthesizer work is prominent on Parliament’s most popular (and most sampled) songs throughout the 1970’s, most notably ”Mothership Connection (Star Child)” and “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” from Mothership Connection, “Flash Light” from Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome and “Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop)" from Motor Booty Affair.

The original Parliament-Funkadelic stopped touring in the early 1980s, and Worrell released several solo albums. Though he never officially joined Talking Heads, he was a de facto member of the group for most of the 80s, appearing on most of their albums and tours until they broke up in 1992.

Since the late 1980s, Worrell has recorded extensively with Bill Laswell. He has also performed with Gov't Mule.

Through the beginning of the 21st century, Bernie has become a visible member of the so-called 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.

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.

His latest project is Baby Elephant, a collaboration with Stetsasonic member/De La Soul producer Prince Paul and longtime Paul associate Don Newkirk. Released September 11th, 2007, Turn My Teeth Up!, features George Clinton, Shock G, Yellowman, Reggie Watts, Nona Hendryx, David Byrne and Gabby La La.

His nephew is underground rapper Chino XL.

Worrell appears in the 2004 documentary film Moog with synthesizer pioneer Bob Moog and several other Moog synthesizer musicians.


Solo albums[]

  • 1978: All the Woo in the World
  • 1990: B.W. Jam (Rock the House)
  • 1991: Funk of Ages
  • 1993: Pieces of Woo: The Other Side
  • 1993: Blacktronic Science
  • 1997: Free Agent: A Space Odyssey

Group albums and guest appeareances (selection)[]

  • 1970: Osmium by Parliament
  • 1970: Funkadelic by Funkadelic
  • 1971: Maggot Brain by Funkadelic
  • 1972: America Eats Its Young by Funkadelic
  • 1974: Up For The Down Stroke by Parliament
  • 1977: Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome by Parliament
  • 1984: Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads
  • 1992: Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis) by Praxis
  • 1999: Unison by Shin Terai
  • 2004: The Big Eyeball In The Sky by Colonel Claypool's Bucket Of Bernie Brains
  • 2006: Gold & Wax by Gigi
  • 2007: Lightyears by Shin Terai
  • 2007: Tennessee 2004 by Praxis
  • 2007: Turn My Teeth Up! by Baby Elephant
  • 2008: Profanation (Preparation for a Coming Darkness) by Praxis

External links[]