Full confession…I am a full blown music fanatic and more than a little bit of a liner note junkie. I have always loved reading the details of who, what, where, of the music I listen to. Who played what, who wrote what and who produced it all.
Maceo Parker has played saxophone on more than his fair share of a lot of that music. Parker details not only his life and career in his new memoir 98% Funky Stuff: My Life in Music, but also what turns out to be an interesting time in our musical history and the history of the United States as a whole.
Parker got his professional start backing James Brown, barnstorming around the world with the R & B master. Parker’s story about playing the Boston Gardens the night after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and many cities found themselves in turmoil, with riots in the streets in reaction to King’s murder. Parker remembers the dread he felt, being asked to take on the role he filled many times for Brown, acting as master of ceremonies, warming up the crowd with a short comedy routine. The laughs he generated eased any lingering tensions and eased the way for music.
His reminiscences of touring West Africa with Brown and being greeted with chants of “MA-CE-O, MA-CE-O” speaks volumes about how music can transcend any language or other barrier that might exist.
At the heart of what Parker does best is his early declaration to give 2% to jazz and the other 98% to the funky stuff. Looking back that funky side has transcended literal generations of music with his collaborations shifting from Brown to George Clinton’s P-Funk crew to Prince. Parker’s range is nearly unmatched with his contributions along the way including diverse acts like; the legendary Ray Charles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Matthews, James Taylor and Ani DiFranco.