From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
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.
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.
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.
Worrell appears in the 2004 documentary film Moog with synthesizer pioneer Bob Moog and several other Moog synthesizer musicians.
- 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 Spaced Odyssey
- 2007: Improvisczario
Selected group albums and notable contributions
- 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
- 1982: The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads by Talking Heads
- 1983: Speaking in Tongues by Talking Heads
- 1984: Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads
- 1984: Fred Schneider & the Shake Society by Fred Schneider
- 1992: Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis) by Praxis
- 1993: Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud by Julian Schnabel
- 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
- 2008: Living on Another Frequency by Science Faxtion
- 2008: A New Mind by Activities of Dust