Another original founding member of the iconic Parliament-Funkadelic has left us, as Calvin Simon, has died.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member was 79 and a cause of death has not been released. “A friend, bandmate & a cool classic guy, Mr. Calvin Simon was a former member of Parliament/Funkadelic. He’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted in 1997 with fifteen members of P-Funk,” Bootsy Collins wrote on Instagram on Friday, Jan. 7, confirming his death.
Born in 1942 in West Virginia, Simon was a devoted member and choir presence at his church.
He would later relocate to New Jersey with his family as a teen, where he would go on to work as a barber. By the late 1950s, Simon joined the group, originally known as the Parliaments, a doo-wop quintet with fellow barbers George Clinton and Grady Thomas, and customers Ray Davis and Fuzzy Haskins.
“Rest in peace to my P-Funk brother, Mr. Calvin Simon,” Clinton’s Facebook post read over the weekend. “Longtime Parliament-Funkadelic vocalist. Fly on Calvin!”
Simon would be later drafted in 1967 to serve in Vietnam, and upon his return, he would sing with the group that later became known as Parliament-Funkadelic. He eventually parted ways with the group due to financial disputes.
“The thing that means the most to me is how I handled the PTSD from my service in the Vietnam War,” he said in a statement posted on his website. “I was able to keep the genie in the bottle, so to speak, and did not allow the evil thoughts to break through and manifest into actions. Instead, I found my faith and relied on the higher power to see me through.”
Alongside the other founding members of the group, Simon was inducted by Prince into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
“Funk is a force that tore the roof off the sucker that is modern music,” Prince said in their Rock Hall introduction. Simon would go on to find his way back to gospel, recording music under his label Simon Sayz, releasing the album Share the News in 2004, and announcing his thyroid cancer diagnosis and treatment during that time.
“Initially it was a shock, as it took my voice away,” Simon recalled in an excerpt posted on his website. “It was while I was preparing for a tour to promote my first Christian album, Share the News (which had just reached No. 21 on the Billboard Gospel Albums chart) when I realized there was a problem. Since the cancer was in the thyroid against my vocal cords, I was certain my music career was over and at this point, I walked away from music. Apparently, God had other plans and had enough forethought to know I needed to be home at that time.”
Two more gospel projects would follow in the form of 2016’s It’s Not Too Late and 2018’s I Believe. The following year in 2019, Clinton and the other members of Parliament-Funkadelic received a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy.
“There was such a positive message and vibe to the original music of Parliament-Funkadelic that was delivered in a fun way. True music, true arrangements, pure joy. I think long-term fans will again relate to that side of the music,” he noted of his gospel releases.
“New fans can experience my version of gospel music, which I call ‘Sanctified Funk’!”