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R&B honours 'The Supremes'

George Clinton, Dionne Warwick, The Supremes among honourees for R&B foundation.

music Updated: Feb 21, 2003 14:48 IST

When George Clinton started his band decades ago; he hadn't yet come up with the wild costumes or tripped-out funk grooves that define it today. "It started out as a doo-wop group," Clinton said of the Parliaments, which would eventually become the bands Parliament and Funkadelic, among other off-shoots of his "P-Funk" family.

"Once we decided to change from that, we went as far as we could ... from diapers to any kind of costume that anyone might have on." Clinton's funky contribution to music, and to R&B in particular, was noted when the Rhythm & Blues Foundation honoured him as one of its pioneers.

Other honourees are saxophonist Maceo Parker, best known as James Brown's sideman; blues singer Koko Taylor; New Orleans-based musician Clarence "Frogman" Henry; Johnny Nash, who had the hit "I Can See Clearly Now"; doo-wop group The Del Vikings; the '60s girl group The Dixie Cups; and Motown legends The Supremes. The late R&B crooner Jackie Wilson received the foundation's legacy tribute; Dionne Warwick its lifetime achievement award.

"It's wonderful to be recognized, and for them to finally understand that after 47 years," Warwick said. Warwick, whose hits include "Don't Make Me Over," "I Say A Little Prayer," and "Do You Know The Way to San Jose," has generally been considered more of a pop singer than an R&B singer. But she says her music is "whatever the listening ear decides." "I don't categorize music, because music is what it is," she said.

Clinton describes Parliament/Funkadelic's sound as "definitely R&B based." "But it's also the DNA for hip-hop, for alternative, for techno and everything else." Blues veteran Taylor sees her award as for her genre as well. "I've been out here all through the years, and I'm working hard to do everything in my power to keep the blues alive, to keep everything alive," she said.

Yet she also acknowledged the award was an important personal achievement for her. "It means everything to me," she said. "I'd rather chop off my right arm than not have gotten this award."

Besides the recognition, the awards come with a cash award. While the foundation would not reveal the amount, in the past they have ranged from $15,000 to $25,000.

The Rhythm & Blues Foundation was founded to preserve the genre's legacy, but also to provide assistance to soul musicians who have fallen on hard times. They provide them financial, medical and other assistance.

First Published: Feb 24, 2003 10:00 IST