Ray Davis

Parliament and Funkadelic singer
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The Independent Online

The Seventies funksters Parliament and Funkadelic, with their flamboyant stage shows and albums like Free Your Mind . . . And Your Ass Will Follow (1970) and One Nation Under a Groove (1978), were essentially the same group recording under different names for different labels, and led by the mighty George Clinton.

The bass singer Ray Davis was one of Clinton's trusted lieutenants, and alternated lead vocals with Glen Goins, the guitarist Garry Shider or Clinton himself on tracks like "Theme From the Black Hole" and "Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop)". It is Davis singing "We're gonna tear the roof off the muthasucka" at the beginning of "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)", the 1976 hit for Parliament.

Born in Sumter, South Carolina, in 1940, Raymond Davis was gifted with a really deep voice - "so low you can't get under it" he later boasted - and sang doo-wop on a couple of singles with the Del-Larks before joining Clinton's vocal group the Parliaments in the Sixties.

They cut "Heart Trouble" for the Detroit label Golden World; however, the follow-up for Revilot, "(I Wanna) Testify", was recorded by Clinton with a Detroit group, the Holidays, instead of the Parliaments, on backing vocals. Rather unexpectedly, the track made the US Top Twenty in 1967. The reunited Parliaments recorded five more singles for Revilot, although only "A New Day Begins" had any success, entering the R&B charts in 1969.

The group began experimenting with "P-Funk", a style Clinton referred to as "like the Temptations on acid". They eventually became Funkadelic, mostly to avoid contractual problems, and released an eponymous album in 1970. Recorded in one day while they were tripping on acid, their second release, Free Your Mind . . . And Your Ass Will Follow, made the US Top 100 just as Clinton decided also to reactivate the Parliament moniker. The group members embarked on a dizzying decade as the double-headed monster Parliament-Funkadelic, signed to different labels and issuing myriad recordings made with a forever-changing line-up which would include the bassist Bootsy Collins, the trombonist Fred Wesley and the saxophonist Maceo Parker, all former members of James Brown's backing band the JBs.

Both the album Mothership Connection and the single "Give Up the Funk" reached the US Top Twenty in 1976, as "the Afro Nauts" embarked on the ambitious P-Funk to Earth Tour which did indeed feature a spaceship from which Clinton descended on to the stage. However, Davis and his fellow Parliament vocalists Haskins, Thomas and Simon felt they were being edged out creatively and financially and left the following year.

Ray Davis soon returned to the P-Funk mothership, appearing with Parliament on Funkentelechy vs the Placebo Syndrome (1977) and the US smash "Flash Light" and lending his distinctive tones to Funkadelic's worldwide hit "One Nation Under a Groove" in 1978.

Always on a shaky financial footing and an easy target for litigation from the various labels it attempted to work with, the whole P-Funk operation ground to a halt in 1981. Davis contributed to Clinton's album Computer Games and his 1982 solo hit "Atomic Dog", recently adapted by the rapper Snoop Dogg. He subsequently worked with Roger Troutman's group Zapp and briefly replaced Melvin Franklin in the Temptations, recording the album For Lovers Only with them in 1995.

Pierre Perrone

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