Ray Davis (Parliament Funkadelic)
Raymond “Ray” Davis was born March 29, 1940. He was the original bass singer and one of the founding members of The Parliaments, and subsequently the bands Parliament, and Funkadelic, collectively known as P-Funk. His regular nickname while he was with those groups was “Sting Ray” Davis. Aside from George Clinton, he was the only original member of the Parliaments not to leave the Parliament/Funkadelic MusicCollective in 1977. He was born in Sumter, South Carolina, and worked with Roger Troutman and Zapp in the early to mid-1980s. His distinctive bass can be heard on “I Can Make You Dance,” and “Do Wa Ditty.”
Parliament Funkadelic’s origins date back to the doo-wop group The Parliaments, which was formed in the late 1950s in Plainfield, New Jersey by George Clinton and For a period in the 1960s Clinton was also a staff songwriter for Motown. Despite initial commercial failure (and one major hit single, “(I Wanna) Testify” in 1967), The Parliaments eventually found success under the names Parliament and Funkadelic in the seventies as a funk, soul and rock music collective headed by George Clinton. Funkadelic had a psychedelic rock touch whose influences include the amplifier sounds of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, James Brown’s funk, blues, Sun Ra’s experimentation, Frank Zappa’s and the Coasters’ humour, the concept albums of the Beatles and the Who and southern soul artists like Otis Redding and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, other influences also include the funky side of Hendrix and Sly Stone, Motown soul groups turned funk groups like the Temptations, the political songs of the Impressions, Rufus Thomas’ southern funk, doo-wop groups like the Coasters for the humour and Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers. Their style has been dubbed P-Funk.
The group has existed under various names since the 1960s and was known for top-notch musicianship, politically charged lyrics, outlandish concept albums and memorable live performances. Overall, the collective achieved thirteen top ten hits in the American R&B music charts between 1967 and 1983, including six number one hits and and three platinum albums.By the early 1980s, Clinton consolidated the collective’s multiple projects and continued touring under the names “George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars” or “George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic”. In 1982, Clinton released the songs Computer Games and “Atomic Dog”. During the next four years, Clinton released three more studio albums (You Shouldn’t-Nuf Bit Fish, Some of My Best Jokes Are Friends and R&B Skeletons in the Closet) as well as a live album, Mothership Connection (Live from the Summit, Houston, Texas) and charting three singles in the R&B Top 30, “Nubian Nut”, “Last Dance”, and “Do Fries Go with That Shake?”.In 1985, he was recruited by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to produce their album Freaky Styley, because the band members were huge fans of George Clinton and funk in general. Clinton, in fact, wrote the vocals and lyrics to the title track which was originally intended by the band to be left as an instrumental piece. The album was not a commercial success at the time, but has since sold 500,000 copies after the Red Hot Chili Peppers became popular years later.
Ray Davis briefly joined The Temptations, after the death of original bass singer Melvin Franklin, and appearing on the 1995 album For Lovers Only. Davis left the group after being diagnosed with throat cancer. In later years, he performed with former Temptation Glenn Leonard in Leonard’s group, The Temptations Experience. And in 1998, along with original Parliament-Funkadelic members Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins, Calvin Simon, and “Shady Grady” Thomas, he formed the Original P.
In 1997 Sixteen members of Parliament-Funkadelic were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and P-Funk’s effect on modern popular music is still immense. Besides their innovation in the entire genre of funk music, George Clinton and P-Funk are still heard often today, especially in hip-hop sampling. The song “Atomic Dog” is one of the most sampled songs in the history of hip hop, especially in the sub-genre G-funk. The Red Hot Chili Peppers video for their 2006 single Dani California featured a tribute to Parliament-Funkadelic. Parliament-Funkadelic’s musical influence can also be heard in R&B, Soul music, Electronica, Gospel, Jazz, and New Wave. Sadly Davis died in New Brunswick, New Jersey on July 5, 2005, of respiratory problems.