Famed songwriter, songstress, and founding member of Labelle, Nona Hyndrix has put together a fundraiser for Bernie Worrell, the famed Parliament Funkadelic keyboard artist whose driving rhythms were behind their most memorable hits, including “Flashlight”. Worrell would later work with groups such as Talking Heads, and Funk in The Bass Worrel has terminal cancer, and reportedly financial difficulties.
Keyboard icon Bernie Worrell draws his inspiration from many sources, even from the songs of birds, he said during a filmed vignette at the “All The Woo in The World: An All-Starr Celebration/Fundraiser for Bernie Worrell,” Monday, April 4, at Webster Hall in New York City.
That said, the vast musical diversity of the nearly five-hour concert made sense. There was the rap funk of Screaming Headless Torsos, the pop funk of Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band and the pop rock of Rick Springfield.
Heck, there was even a classical Indian song from Falu. The eclectic sounds all came together as part of the happy riddle of Worrell — what happens when you merge musical genius with the simple joy of music.
You get a lot of love.
“Kindness falls off him like stardust,” said actress Meryl Streep on Monday. Streep appeared with Worrell in the movie “Ricki and the Flash.”
Worrell, born in Long Branch and raised in Plainfield, was recently diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, which has metastasized to his liver and pleural areas. A Bernie Worrell Fund has been set up by Sweet Relief (sweetrelief.org), the non-profit musician assistance project, to help defray medical expenses.
All the stars who appeared stage expressed strong affection for the keyboardist, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member who has played with Parliament Funkadelic, Talking Heads, the Pretenders and more and is credited with revolutionizing the keyboard in funk and rock. .
“Bernie changed my life,” said David Byrne. “The way I think about music and the way I think about life.”
“He doesn’t have to shine by himself, he wants others to shine,” said Bootsy Collins. “That’s a great gift to have.”
It was an evening of musical surprises, with performances by Jerry Harrison of the Talking Heads; Sarah Dash of LaBelle; Fred Schneider of the B-52s; Living Colour; the Black Rock Coalition Orchestra; Marc Ribler; Rick Springfield; and Leo Nocentelli of the Funky Meters, who was joined by Questlove of the Roots and Jon Batiste of the “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’s” house band.
Film director Jonathan Demme brought out a clips of the Talking Heads concert film “Stop Making Sense.” He jokingly said that Byrne and Harrison wanted less Worrell in the film because he was too cool.
Worrell performed at the show, too. He joined Nocentelli and guitarist Buckethead for an instrumental, and later came out on stage to join Collins and George Clinton. Collins gave Worrell a melodica wrapped up as a gift, and Worrell broke it out and started sweetly playing the Collins song, “I’d Rather Be with You.”
A long jam on the Parliament Funkadelic classic “Flash Light” followed.
“It’s about us,” said Worrell, as he motioned toward the audience. “I’m just a channel who was given a gift, just like all of us.”
And this was back in the day…