Calvin Simon, co-founder of Parliament-Funkadelic, has died

Simon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the group in 1997.

Calvin Simon, one of the founding members of the landmark funk outfit Parliament-Funkadelic, has died at age 79. The news was confirmed by Simon’s former Parliament bandmate, William “Bootsy” Collins.

“We lost another Original member of Parliament/Funkadelic,” Collins wrote in an Instagram post. “A friend, bandmate & a cool classic guy, Mr. Calvin Simon was a former member of Parliament/Funkadelic.” Collins said that Simon was one of 15 Parliament-Funkadelic members to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Parliament-Funkadelic’s figurehead George Clinton also posted about Simon’s death on his Facebook page. “Rest in peace to my P-Funk brother Mr. Calvin Simon. Longtime Parliament-Funkadelic vocalist. Fly on Calvin,” Clinton wrote.

A cause of death has not been determined as of yet. Simon had been previously diagnosed and treated for thyroid cancer back in 2004, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Simon was one of Parliament’s original members, along with Clinton and singer Grady Thomas during the 1950s. He was also an important part of Parliament-Funkadelic’s core group of musicians and singers during their prime in the 1970s including Clinton, Collins, fellow vocalist Fuzzy Haskins, keyboardist Bernie Worrell, guitarists Gary Shider and Eddie Hazel.

Calvin Simon, accepting his trophy for induction into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1997. (YouTube screenshot)

Simon’s voice can be heard on classic Parliament albums like 1974’s Up For the Downstroke, 1975’s Mothership Connection, and 1976’s The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein, as well as groundbreaking Funkadelic albums like 1970’s Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow, 1971’s Maggot Brain, and 1974’s Standing on the Verge of Getting It On.

Born in 1942, Simon was raised in West Virginia before moving to New Jersey as a teenager. It was in New Jersey where he would co-found the doo-wop group The Parliaments with Clinton, Haskins, and Thomas. Simon, Clinton, and Thomas all worked as barbers before forming the group. Haskins, along with fifth member Ray Davis, was one of their customers.

In 1967, The Parliaments scored their breakout hit with “(I Wanna) Testify,” cracking the Billboard 100 top 20 and peaking at number three on the Billboard R&B charts. Simon left Parliament in the 70’s over financial disputes.

Forty years and several platinum and gold-selling albums and singles later after “(I Wanna) Testify,” Simon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Parliament-Funkadelic, part of a 1997 class that included The Jackson 5, The Bee Gees, Mahalia Jackson and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Simon stated that it was great to perform with the group again on the night of the induction after being away for so many years, although there was some tension around the evening’s performance itself.

“Despite the conflict before the show about what members would be onstage, and the inclusion of non-founding members, it was an honor and thrill to receive such a recognition and to perform on stage for a crowd of my peers,” Simon said according to his official website. “It was truly amazing that despite the fact the founding members had not performed on the same stage in 20 years, they did not miss a beat! What a night!”

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