Former Parliament-Funkadelic singer Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins died at the age of 81 on March 17. The news was confirmed by former bandmates Bootsy Collins and George Clinton.
“Prayers going out to Clarence ‘Fuzzy’ Haskins’ family and friends,” Collins tweeted. “We lost his frequency today… We will miss u my friend, bandmate and soul brother! Thank u for ur guidance in my pup years.”
Haskins was an early member of Clinton’s doo-wop group the Parliaments, becoming a leading feature of the band when it became Parliament and again when Clinton formed the more rock-focused Funkadelic. He went solo in the late ‘70s, releasing A Whole Nother Thang in 1976 and Radio Active in 1978. In the ’80s he formed a Funkadelic lineup with some former colleagues but without Clinton. In the ‘90s four of the five original Parliaments lineup toured as Original P.
Haskins, who is credited with writing a number of classic Funkadelic tracks including “I Get a Thing” and “I Wanna Know if It’s Good to You,” eventually became a church preacher, returning to music occasionally to release gospel music. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.
“We didn’t have, like, a black radio station at the time – I think one came on maybe like late at night [for] an hour or so,” Haskins recalled in a video interview (available below). “All I listened to was country and [yodelling]. …We harmonized; we just did it. No one taught us how to harmonize. I bought a three-string guitar from a guy for about three dollars… and taught myself how to play.” He added: “I met George around 1960, in my last year in high school … the rest is history.”
Listen to the Parliaments’ ‘I Wanna Testify’
In his 2017 memoir Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? Clinton wrote: “I thought cigarettes were cool as a symbol, a little dangerous, a little adult, and Parliament was a big brand, so we became the Parliaments. Personnel shifted around a bit in that first year or two – some guys went out, other guys came in – but pretty soon we had a more stable lineup: me, Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas, Fuzzy Haskins, and Ray Davis.
“Each of us had a distinctive style… I went for a Smokey Robinson thing, with maybe a little bit of Pookie Hudson thrown in there. Fuzzy, who was second lead, was a soulful tenor with all the bluesy inflections, like Wilson Pickett, real rough. We started singing more seriously in and around the area, and that attracted the attention of some of the more established groups nearby.”
On the later success of the P-Funk projects – which saw him whip up live audiences to a frenzy, usually in tight-fitting clothes and outlandish masks – Haskins said: “The coincidence of us coming together, it was just meant to be. … It’s been a lot of joy, lot of fun. We had setbacks, problems, but it was fun. It was what we wanted to do. A lot of people are like, ‘What do I do?’ Keep doing what you’re doing. … Don’t try to do nothing like me. You do what you do and just keep doing it. Keep asking questions… We live in the now.”
No cause of death was confirmed, although Haskins had suffered a serious stroke in 2022.
Watch Funkadelic Perform ‘I Got a Thing’
Watch a Fuzzy Haskins Interview
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