Calvin Simon, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member and a founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic, has died. He was 79.
“We lost another Original member of Parliament/Funkadelic,” Bootsy Collins wrote on Instagram on Friday (Jan. 7), confirming Simon’s death. “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! R.I.P Bootsy baby!!!”
“Rest in peace to my P-Funk brother Mr. Calvin Simon,” a post on George Clinton’s Facebook page said. “Longtime Parliament-Funkadelic vocalist. Fly on, Calvin!”
He was born in 1942West Virginia, where he sang with his church choir. Simon relocated to New Jersey with his family as a teen.
By the late 1950s, Calvin Simon joined the group initially known as the Parliaments, first formed as a doo-wop quintet with fellow barbers Grady Thomas and George Clinton and customers Fuzzy Haskins and Ray Davis. Before 1950 he worked as a barber.
Calvin, who was drafted in 1967 to serve in Vietnam, went on to 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.”
Along with other members of Parliament-Funkadelic, Prince introduced Simon 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.
Most recently, Calvin recorded gospel music under his label Simon Sayz. In 2004, releasing the album Share the News, when he was treated and diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
“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. God had other plans and had enough forethought to know I needed to be home at that time.”
He released two more gospel projects, “It’s Not Too Late” in 2016 and in “I Believe” in 2018.
“There was such a positive message and vibe to the original music of Parliament-Funkadelic that was delivered in a fun way. True music, proper 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’!”