Mothership Connection (Star Child)

Album: Mothership Connection (1975)
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Songfacts®:

  • P-Funk get galactic on "Mothership Connection," the song that established their outer space motif. It also introduced group leader George Clinton's character Star Child, sent from the heavens to bring funk to the people of Earth.

    The song is part of the P-Funk precept of liberation through funk, and like many of their songs, it contains a chant so everyone can participate:

    If you hear any noise
    It's just me and the boys... hit me!


    Star Child is the leader of this movement, battling his nemesis, Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk, another character in their universe.
  • George Clinton wrote "Mothership Connection" with bass player Bootsy Collins and keyboard player Bernie Worrell. These guys were the core creatives in P-Funk, which recorded under the names Parliament and Funkadelic - this was a Parliament release.

    The lead singer on the track is Glenn Goins, vocalist and guitarist with the group. As usual, Clinton handles the spoken parts, dropping lines like, "Put a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip."
  • The refrain:

    Swing down, sweet chariot
    Stop, and let me ride


    Comes from a spiritual called "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," which repeats:

    Swing low, sweet chariot
    Coming for to carry me home


    "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" dates to the mid-1800s, when it was sung by slaves working cotton fields. "Coming for to carry me home" represents either an escape from slavery or a calling to heaven. The way P-Funk uses the song, the chariot (Mothership) becomes a transport to a higher plane.
  • On their 1976 tour, P-Funk introduced The Mothership, a spacecraft that would descend to the stage while they performed this song. When the song ended, George Clinton would emerge as a different character: Dr. Funkenstein. It stayed in their stage shows until 1981.

    The Mothership became a big part of P-Funk lore and a cultural milestone. A replica of the ship, which looks like a lander from one of the Apollo missions, is in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
  • "Mothership Connection" is the title track of Parliament's 1975 album; the cover shows Clinton emerging from the ship. The P-Funk collective was very prolific around this time. Funkadelic, the even more esoteric branch, also released an album that year, and in 1976, Bootsy Collins released his first album, Stretchin' Out in Bootsy's Rubber Band, which he worked on with George Clinton.
  • This has been sampled many times, mostly by West Coast rappers in the '90s. The most famous song to borrow it is "Let Me Ride" from Dr. Dre's highly influential 1992 album The Chronic. The end of the music video contains archive footage of P-Funk performing "Mothership Connection" live, including the spacecraft landing.

    Other songs to sample it include "We Want Eazy" by Dr. Dre's N.W.A bandmate Eazy-E, and "Groove To The Sound" by Run-D.M.C.

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