Bernie Worrell Has Died At The Age Of 72

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Master funk keyboardist Bernie Worrell (Parliament/Funkadelic, Talking Heads, The Bernie Worrell Orchestra) died yesterday at the age of 72.

Dr. George Bernard “Bernie” Worrell, Jr.  (April 19, 1944 – June 24, 2016) was a classically-trained child prodigy – performing with the Washington Symphony Orchestra at ten and studying at the Julliard School of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music.

But he was best known for his work as a founding member and Musical Director of Parliament/Funkadelic. In P-Funk, he created a new musical language for the Minimoog synthesizer and helped define funk keyboard performance.

Worrell is also for his role in Talking Heads, playing on The Name of This Band Is Talking HeadsSpeaking In Tongues and in their concert film, Stop Making Sense.

In more recent years, Worrell has been prolific both as a studio musician and a solo artist.

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Worrell was inspired to take up the synthesizer by the work of Keith Emerson:

“When I was in college, at the New England Conservatory in Boston, I used to listen to Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I loved the Tarkus album.

Keith was the first guy I heard using the Moog. I liked the sound of that album and the things he was doing with the instrument,” Worrell told Music Radar. “I found out that it was a Moog synthesizer, and later on I purchased my own Minimoog.”

Worrell had this to say about his approach to synthesizers:

“When the synthesizers came about, my having been brought up classically and knowing a full range of orchestra, tympanis and everything, I knew how it sounded and what it felt like.

So, if I’m playing a horn arrangement on keyboard, or strings, it sounds like strings or horns, ’cause I know how to phrase it, how a string phrases, different attacks from the aperture for horns, trumpets, sax or trombones.”

Here’s Worrell in a duo performance with Steve Jordan:

Here’s a Worrell solo jam from the 2004 Montreux Jazz Festival:

At Moogfest 2016, Worrell stopped by the Moog Pop-up Store to check out their new Minimoog Model D reissue. This video, via John Straffin, captures Worrell in action:

14 thoughts on “Bernie Worrell Has Died At The Age Of 72

    1. He is still alive and doing much better, just not in this physical realm. Don’t worry, he is living on, and his legacy also.

  1. Another stunning loss to the music world, is too easy to understate the importance of this man in shaping the role of electronic music in multiple genres today. Heaven, though, is a bit funkier today than it was. Welcome to the true Mothership Bernie!

  2. im so sorry i really love Bernie not only because he is an exelente funky master and great keyboard player but he is very funny !. I wish you rest in peace forever. wherever you are i suppose you are playing some funky jam with a celestial keyboard

  3. I think it’s in poor taste that moogs article about Bernie Worrel passing has a great big shot of the new minimoog, and mentions that he played “one of the first new Minimoogs produced in over 40 years”

    I feel like he already championed that instrument enough while he was alive, right up to the end!
    I did enjoy that moogfest footage, sad when he says his hands aren’t what they used to be, but a girl shouts out “they still sound pretty good!” nice moment.
    I also like the scene in the moog doco where he describes playing the minimoog as having sex, and thanks Bob Moog for giving him a sexual female like instrument!

  4. It’s the sound of that panning distorted Rhodes in ‘Free you Mind’ which I associate with him – I remember thinking wow when I heard that first time around….those great lines he played on that track.
    Sad day….we lost another keyboard legend R.I.P

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