Awesome Men Throughout History: Bootsy Collins
Since I often forget who has and hasn’t been covered in this Awesome Men Throughout History series, I go back through the archives every so often to see who I’ve written about. It’s an impressive gallery of men, no doubt, but the fact that I’ve overlooked Bootsy Collins for this long is downright criminal. Why didn’t anyone tell me?
Well, I’m remedying that mistake right dang now, because Bootsy Collins is a fleshly avatar of awesomeness, and he doesn’t get enough props for it.
Bootsy was born in Cincinnati, and idolized guitarist Lonnie Mack, whose instrumental records inspired Bootsy’s entire career, in a way. Without a singer soaking up all the attention, all the attention goes to the band, and Bootsy assumed that this would get him famous and laid way quicker than if he was just some doof playing bass behind the main vocalist.
It’s easy to connect that childhood realization to Bootsy’s wild costumes and outrageous stage presence, even when he’s part of a band that’s not his own. He might just be the bassist, but he makes sure that people remember him.
Bootsy is also a big fan of Jimi Hendrix, and even listened to Hendrix records on the tour bus when he was part of James Brown’s touring band, which was a huge no-no. James’ dictatorial relationship with his original band, the Famous Flames, led to most of them quitting on him en masse, so James hired the Pacemakers, with Bootsy on bass, to replace them.
That band was responsible for some of James Brown’s best songs, including “Sex Machine” and “Soul Power,” and a lot of that is due to Bootsy’s talents. Unlike a lot of purposely outlandish musicians, Bootsy has more than enough talent to keep you listening once his public persona has drawn you in.
Bootsy famously quit James Brown’s band by running offstage during an LSD hallucination, but he joined up with George Clinton soon afterward and helped boost Parliament-Funkadelic’s reputation as the kings of funk. Bootsy also started his own Rubber Band, and has collaborated with a dizzying array of artists, including Fat Boy Slim, Snoop Dogg/Lion, Buckethead (an experience he compared to hiking through the woods with a serial killer), Red Hot Chili Peppers, and countless others.
Bootzilla’s dedication to being himself, even to the point of excess, is pretty liberating at a time when so much about popular music seems excessively (even publicly) stage-managed.
“What all of this – my music, my life – is about, is liberty,” Collins explains in a quote from BB King’s website. “It’s about pursuing the sounds and ideas and things that you believe in and that you feel.” That kind of individualism is what makes a man awesome, and Bootsy Collins embodies it to the fullest.
About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.