Photo via Bernie Worrell on Facebook
Bernie Worrell, the synth innovator who defined much of the sound of funk and its successors, has died at the age of 72, according to a statement posted on his official Facebook page. A longtime member of Funkadelic and its companion band Parliament, Worrell was diagnosed with both prostate and liver cancer this past January, and his health had declined significantly in recent weeks according to posts on his Facebook page from his wife Judie. He passed away this morning.
"AT 11:54, June 24, 2016, Bernie transitioned Home to The Great Spirit," Judie wrote on his Facebook page today. "Rest in peace, my love -- you definitely made the world a better place. Till we meet again, vaya con Dios." She added that fans should "check BernieWorrell.com for further input, anything you want to post," asking only family to text or call to contact her. A guestbook page on Worrell's site has quickly filled with memories and tributes.
Worrell was born April 19, 1944 in Long Branch, New Jersey. As part of George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic collective, he contributed to countless funk classics, forwarding the popular use of synthesizers and helping to craft a 70s sound that remains definitive. In the 80s, he joined the Talking Heads as a touring member of the band. His synth lines also became the blueprint for Dr. Dre's iconic 90s G-Funk rap sound, which drew heavily on Parliament and Funkadelic samples.
“It's an honor to think I contributed to music that a younger generation picked up on and that technology took further,” Worrell told Noisey last fall. He continued to work and perform up through this year, and his impact will be felt for generations to come. As part of Parliament-Funkadelic, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, with a speech from Prince. A distinctive and influential artist whose advances in sound have touched almost every corner of modern music, Worrell's loss will be deeply felt.