"My mother named me Bootsy," the bassist born William Earl Collins told The Guardian in 2017. "I asked her why and she just said, 'Because you looked like a Bootsy.' I left it at that." Whatever the look, Bootsy Collins was a crucial part of the sound of '70s funk music - particularly the cosmically-aligned P-funk popularized by George Clinton during the decade.
Here's our tribute to Bootsy with some of his most stompin' grooves!
James Brown, "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" (1970)
The Godfather of Soul plucked an unknown Bootsy and his brother, Phelps "Catfish" Collins, from Cincinnati band The Pacemakers to play bass and guitar in his new outfit, The J.B.'s. The hypnotic riff of "Sex Machine" gave Brown his first Top 20 hit of the '70s.
Parliament, "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)" (1976)
Having joined George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic universe in 1972, Bootsy was present for Parliament's first million-seller, reaching the Top 5 of the R&B charts and crossing over to No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Bootsy's Rubber Band, "I'd Rather Be with You" (1976)
The P-Funk universe got a little bigger with Bootsy's debut album Stretchin' Out in Bootsy's Rubber Band, recorded the same time as Parliament's Mothership Connection and Funkadelic's rock-oriented Let's Take It to the Stage. Four decades later, actor/musician Donald Glover took inspiration from "I'd Rather Be with You" when crafting Childish Gambino's "Redbone," a Grammy nominee for Record of the Year.
Parliament, "Flash Light" (1978)
The next P-funk smash was conceived by Clinton with Bootsy in mind to sing, but he turned it down - and keyboardist Bernie Worrell is responsible for the track's low-end groove. But Collins drummed on the track, thereby keeping time as it became the band's first No. 1 R&B single. Later, it became a hot sample for everyone from Salt-N-Pepa to Aaliyah.
Bootsy's Rubber Band, "Bootzilla" (1978)
"Flash Light" was replaced at the top of Billboard's R&B chart by this cut from Bootsy's third solo album, co-written and co-produced with Clinton. "Bootzilla" became Collins' onstage alter-ego: "the world's only rhinestone rock star doll."
Funkadelic, "(Not Just) Knee Deep" (1979)
Funkadelic was George Clinton's outlet for the more out-there parts of his musical mind, but the one-two punch of One Nation Under a Groove (1978) and Uncle Jam Wants You (1979) brought the ensemble out of the shadow of Parliament's mothership. One Nation's title track became a crossover pop hit, but it's Uncle Jam's "(Not Just) Knee Deep" that most remember - not only another P-Funk R&B chart-topper but a key hip-hop sample in the late '80s on De La Soul's "Me, Myself and I."
Zapp, "More Bounce to the Ounce" (1980)
Bootsy slid into the producer's chair and played guitar on Zapp's self-titled debut album. His collaboration with talkbox-wielding frontman Roger Troutman was a long time coming: both had come up in the same Ohio music clubs and were family friends. "More Bounce to the Ounce" reached No. 2 on Billboard's R&B survey.
Deee-Lite, "Groove is in the Heart" (1990)
Styles change, but he's still Bootsy, baby! Collins kicked off a new decade singing and playing bass on New York house trio Deee-Lite's debut album World Clique, appearing in the popular video for the worldwide Top 5 smash "Groove is in the Heart" and gaining exposure to a whole new generation of fans.