An Illustrated Tribute to Blowfly
Filthy parody music king Clarence Reid a.k.a. Blowfly passed away on Sunday. Here are eight illustrations of the musician by a collection of talented artists and a short and touching essay by hip-hop historian Johan Kugelberg.
Illustration by Kelly Keith
Blowfly a.k.a. Clarence Reid passed away on Sunday, and I wanted to put together a collection of art honoring his memory. I asked Johan Kugelberg, perhaps the most important hip-hop historian to write a little about Blowfly to accompany these drawings.
If you choose to immerse yourself in the work of a recently deceased celebrity, then let it be Blowfly. Your everyday life will be illuminated by him. The duality of Clarence Reid is consistently fascinating. Under his own name, he was the author of the sublime "Clean Up Woman," sung by Betty Wright; as his alias Blowfly, he created the equally sublime (if also giddily repulsive) "Shitting on the Dock of the Bay" or "Spermy Night in Georgia." He was a true craftsman, building extraordinary songs in R&B, soul, and funk over decades before he came across a window of fiscal opportunity assembling X-rated novelty songs. Using his inherent ability to make up saucy lyrics on the spot ever since his teens, Clarence Reid became Blowfly. Starting in 1971, Blowfly released a slew of albums along a same-ish formula of smutty/funny lyrics parodying well-known songs on top of sleazy funk grooves. These records were an extension of a long-standing African-American tradition of raunch, of wild, trashy, sexually-charged novelty music that was the soundtrack to better parties than you or me or anyone of our pals got to go to. These records were wildly successful in the marketplace, and sustained Clarence Reid for decades. His performances are legendary: off-the-cuff, spontaneous, sometimes insane, and (naturally) they became an insider calling card of hipness within an informed urban audience both black and white. Blowfly's legend was further cemented within DJ culture and frontline hip-hop, as Clarence Reid produced not only proto-rap recordings in the 1970s, but also issued the sublime Blowfly's Rapp in early 1980.
Honor Clarence Reid by slow-dancing with your significant other to one of his many fine slow jams. Honor Blowfly by following that up with a freak party in your heart or apartment. I love Blowfly, I love Clarence Reid, and his soul music is a perfect counterpoint to his triple-X party jams. Love and lust, exploitation and introspection.
—Johan KugelbergGary Gilmore