Bandleader George Clinton conceived this track from a comment when he was shooting film for an unfinished Parliament/Funkadelic movie outside the United Nations headquarters. The scene in question was the landing of P-Funk's signature prop, the Mothership, accompanied by a UN staffer raising the flags of the member nations. One of Clinton's friends described what he was looking at as "one nation under a groove."
Bass guitarist Bootsy Collins recalled to Uncut: "One night in D.C. some guys start shouting, 'One nation! One nation! One Nation Under a Groove!' When you've got fresh musicians around you, you can take that hook line and really make something. George's thing was, 'It don't matter how many hooks you put in. Don't matter! Put them all in there.' So, on that song, you've got 'One Nation Under a Groove... Feet don't fail me now,' all that."
The title is one of many mantras embraced by P-Funk, whose shows bring together a mix of races that come together over the music. "One Nation Under A Groove" represents the positive vide that comes from this connection.
George Clinton had the title in mind two years before the band recorded the song. He didn't have any lyrics - he came up with those in the studio.
Clinton wrote this song with his musical director Garry Shider and with Junie Morrison, formerly of The Ohio Players. It was the first Funkadelic track Morrison worked on. He told Red Bull Music Academy: "As I recall, George was not present at the inception of the track. Thankfully, Garry Shider was there and very supportive during the process. Garry helped to ease the tension between myself and the members that I did not yet know personally, which made my arrangement easier for the band to handle. Bootsy Collins added his drums at a later date.
Bernie Worrell was not present at the track's inception either. Bernie was waiting on his awesome Moog Modular to arrive, which took a bit longer than expected. However, once Bernie and Bootsy added their vibes to the track, 'One Nation Under a Groove' became unstoppable. The awesome vocal aspects of the track were also added some time later, as well."
This went to #1 on the R&B chart, giving Funkadelic their first topper on that tally (they had another with "(Not Just) Knee Deep"). George Clinton usually released the songs with more hit potential as Parliament tracks, but he felt it was time to get Funkadelic a hit.
"We really wanted it to be a hit so we really made it more commercial and more straightforward than I like to do it," he told Blues & Soul in 1978. "The band were even singing: 'Corny or not, here we come'! It's corny but it's clever and the time is right for it. It's something we hadn't done since our Motown days. Sure, we could have done it all along but people bag you and you can't get out of the bag then and Funkadelic mustn't be bagged.
At one time, we were gonna do it much harsher but it didn't suit the vibration of the song. We don't want people to think of us as being political – though we are political but from a mental standpoint. Burn down the ghettoes in your head and trespass in your own mind, that's what we are trying to say."
This was used in the 1991 movie Young Soul Rebels. The film takes place during The Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977, over a year before this was recorded.