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Keyboardist Bernie Worrell Dies at 72

Funk pioneer's influence broke through genre barriers

Bernie Worrell at Winter Jazz Fest 2012
Anthony Braxton (left) and Bernie Worrell receive honorary Doctor of Music degrees from New England Conservatory; May 22, 2016

Keyboardist Bernie Worrell, whose synthesizer playing and composing as the musical director of Parliament-Funkadelic made him a key figure in the development of funk and hip-hop, died yesterday at his home in Everson, Wash., the New York Times and other outlets have reported. According to the Times, Worrell was informed he had late-stage lung cancer early this year. He was 72.

Worrell’s work in P-Funk had a rare ability to evoke both the earthy and the otherworldly in equal measure. His playing on the Moog bass synthesizer-“he is the father of Moog bass and the auteur of the funkiest basslines in history,” the company said in a press release-anchored what was perhaps the hardest-grooving ensemble ever, while also serving the band’s space-age Mothership aesthetic.

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