‘(I Wanna) Testify,’ The Parliaments

Parliaments

George Clinton’s vocal group, The Parliaments, had a big hit in 1967 with “(I Wanna) Testify.” L-R, The Parliaments were Raymond Davis, Calvin Simon, Clarence Haskins, Grady Thomas and Clinton.

Look at those slick matching haircuts and dapper green and yellow suits. Listen to the sound of the music: slightly rough around the edges, but nothing truly wild or visionary.

Certainly, you would have been shocked in 1967 if somebody had told you that George Clinton’s Plainfield-based vocal group, The Parliaments — which had a hit that year with the gospel-influenced “(I Wanna) Testify” — would morph into two eccentric, masterful and, usually, bizarrely dressed funk groups, The Parliaments and Funkadelic (and, later, into the entity now known as George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic or George Clinton & the P-Funk Allstars).

Clinton — who still performs regularly at 73, and has just published a memoir titled “Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?” — is generally considered to be one of the architects of funk, behind, perhaps, only James Brown in terms of importance.

Clinton was actually the only member of The Parliaments to appear on the single. He recorded it with studio musicians in Detroit, where he was working for the Motown label as a songwriter and producer — “(I Wanna) Testify” actually sounds quite a bit like Motown act The Temptations’ 1966 hit, “(I Know) I’m Losing You.”

After “(I Wanna) Testify” became a hit, rising to No. 3 on Billboard magazine’s R&B chart and No. 20 on its pop chart, Clinton put together a band to tour behind The Parliaments, and this led to all his future groups.

New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.

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