Bernie Worrell 1944-2016 R.I.P.


Feel the Bern. Dr. Woo, indeed.

By Fred Mills

Pretty much anyone who pays even the remotest attention to music world news had already heard that P-Funk/Talking Heads/session man/bandleader/keyboard legend Bernie Worrell was probably nearing the end due to his battle with lung cancer. Last week his wife Judie posted sad news to that end. But that doesn’t really make the hurt go away upon learning last night (June 24) that Worrell had finally succumbed, at the age of 72.

The obits and accolades came pouring forth, including this loving, but bizarrely-titled (so bizarre, in fact, that it bordered on being an insulting one) NPR piece by the otherwise even-handed culture critic Eric Deggins: “Bernie Worrell: The Most Influential Keyboardist You’ve Probably Never Heard Of”.

I can go with “influential.” But “never heard of”? C’mon Eric, get your mainstream head out of your ironic ass. It’s likely that, I dunno, Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber fans haven’t heard of Worrell. But… rewind to the first sentence, above. I’ll wait for you.

Rather than trot out the recaps and kudos, let me simply note a couple of, er, notes, by way of thank-you to Worrell. A number of years ago he was performing at the annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam, in Asheville, NC, and as I was covering the event for the media I had the coveted backstage pass that allowed me to sidle up to the man and express my appreciation for what he was doing, what he had done to date, and what, in my mind, he probably would do in the future. He was as gracious and cool as they come to one blathering fanboy. Fast-forward a couple of years later, and he’s about to perform with his band at the BLURT/Ginger Man Pub annual day-party during SXSW in Austin. Cue up fanboy action once more, and cue up cool/gracious response on Worrell’s end once again, too.

Thinking about it all now, I’m kicking myself for not driving over to Durham for Moogfest a couple of months ago, as Worrell was one of the featured artists. I dearly would’ve liked to have the chance to be a fanboy for him one last time….

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