Calvin Simon, who was a founding member of Parliament–Funkadelic and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, 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!”
Simon’s cause of death has not been reported.
Born in 1942 in West Virginia, where he sang with his church choir, Simon relocated to New Jersey with his family as a teen.
He worked as a barber, and by the late 1950s, Simon joined the group originally known as the Parliaments, first formed as a doo-wop quintet with fellow barbers George Clinton and Grady Thomas and customers Ray Davis and Fuzzy Haskins.
Simon, who was drafted in 1967 to serve in Vietman, 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, 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.
Most recently, Simon recorded gospel music under his label Simon Sayz, releasing the album Share the News in 2004, when he was diagnosed and treated for 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. Apparently God had other plans and had enough forethought to know I needed to be home at that time.”
He went on to release two more gospel projects, 2016’s It’s Not Too Late in 2018’s I Believe.
“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’!”