Bootsy Collins — with his star-shaped sunglasses, bright, sparkling outfits and iconic “space bass” guitar — might be known as much for his colorful quotes and relentlessly positive attitude as he is for being a funk legend. Born and raised in Cincinnati, where he still lives with his wife of 24 years, “Pepperminte” Patti Collins, he rose to fame in the early ’70s as the bassist in James Brown’s backing band and later with George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic.
In fact, the 68-year-old musician believes in the power of funk, which he has explained as “anything that we create in our minds that we want to do, what we want to be, but we don’t have the resources.” He believes in encouraging other artists, particular younger ones. (He often expresses this by engaging with fans on Instagram and Twitter, ending posts with his exclamatory catchphrase: “Bootsy, baby!”)
Collins also believes in staying positive during tough times. When the coronavirus pandemic hit and his collaborators had to stop coming to the studio to record their parts on his new album, The Power of the One, Collins shifted plans and tried to keep his fellow musicians inspired while they recorded from home.
“We had to figure out how to record and keep that same momentum, but try to keep positive and flowing while we’re getting used to this new tragedy,” he says, speaking from his home. “But this is the best time to really create, because in these tragedies and storms is where the most beautiful messages can come out.”
The Power of the One marks the 16th studio album from Collins, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. It includes collaborations with veterans and longtime friends like Branford Marsalis, George Benson, Snoop Dogg and Victor Wooten alongside appearances by some of his favorite performers, like Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, EmiSunshine and Christian McBride.
“I’m trying to encourage young people, because they’re fighting a battle that we didn’t have to fight,” he says. “They’re taught not to depend on nobody else. It’s like, ‘You don’t need a band, just turn on the computer!’ They don’t have the farmer’s mentality where you have to go out and plant the seeds, you have to water it.… But you can’t do everything on your own.”
Collins says his new songs are “pretty funked up” and hopes they will bring together people of all ages and help them heal.
“At this moment, we’re all going through how to deal with each other, and it’s really tough,” he says. “But music always is a soother or a healer, and that’s the way I want to use this album. It’s gonna make you think, and it’s gonna make you feel something.”
Collins and “Pepperminte” Patti are also organizing an all-star livestream birthday bash and album release party, set for Oct. 23. Patti, who teases that the lineup will be “all that and a bag of chips,” is an instrumental force in Collins’ life, spending much of her time focusing on their charity initiatives with the Bootsy Collins Foundation. “He lets me be me, and I let him be him,” she says of their relationship, which started when they met at a gym in 1988.
No matter what happens, Collins says his childhood sense of fun and positivity is part of what keeps him inspired.
“I don’t ever want to grow up and lose that kid!” he says. “That guy is the one that really keeps me going — just experiencing and learning new things.”
Collins laughs, then adds, “He’s got a cartoon mind. Can I help that?”
Guest Playlist by Bootsy Collins
In this Spotify playlist made just for AARP, Bootsy Collins shares songs that have helped him get through tough times, along with a few favorites from his own career.
Read about his picks here, then scroll down to listen to the playlist on Spotify.
Lean on Me by Bill Withers
“That was such a powerful statement. It speaks to everybody — you don’t have to be a certain way or believe in a certain thing, it’s just plain as day.”
Come Together by the Beatles
“It’s a really simple thing to say. ‘Come Together’ — what does that mean? It means come together! It don’t take a rocket scientist to really appreciate these songs and what they mean.”
Maybe the Last Time by James Brown
“This is one song in my early career that will live forever. You don’t know when the last time is gonna be, so you better do all you can do right now. It pushes you ahead instead of pulling you back, and I think those kinds of songs are really needed now.”
Mercy Mercy Me by Marvin Gaye
“Just come as you are, and these words just stick to your soul. It gives you comfort in a time of tragedy and in a time of loss.”
The Power of the One by Bootsy Collins
“‘The power of the one’ is what pulls us through, that guide that’s in all of us. Everybody’s caught in so many separate ways, but to me the power of the one puts the emphasis on, ‘Come on now, we’re all on this same one planet.’ This is like our power: being all together.”
Funkship Area-51 by Bootsy Collins
“I went back to my Parliament-Funkadelic days on this one. People need to know that’s still there.”
Stayback by Omar Apollo (featuring Bootsy Collins)
“Other projects like [remixing this song] are the kinds of things that are keeping me positive and giving me hope, so we can give out more hope.”
If You Want Me to Stay by Sly and the Family Stone
“We redid this track [on the new record], and Larry Graham played bass on it. It inspired me to get some of the people that I look up to to be on the record. We just had fun with it, you know?”
The Middle Man by Christian McBride
“The thing I like about McBride is he can swing with the best of them. He can be complex or as simple as the song calls for. He reminds me a lot of Fred Wesley in writing, arranging and the love for jazz and funk.”
Empty Promises by Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
“Christone Ingram plays blues guitar on [the new record]. It’s pretty inspiring to hear these young guys playing their heart out, like the old vets like B.B. King.”
How to add playlist directly to your smartphone
Every playlist on Spotify has its own unique code, similar to a QR code. Called Spotify Codes, these bars make it easy to add a playlist to your Spotify app on your smartphone. To use, open Spotify, click on the Search field in the middle bottom of the screen. Click in the Search field and when you see the camera icon on the top right, click on that. Aim your camera at the code and it will bring up the playlist. To save the playlist, click on the heart.
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