#177: Funkadelic, "One Nation Under a Groove" (1978)

177 One Nation.jpg

One of my best friends, Bailey, loves funk with all of her being. “It’s just nasty and raw and it’s this outpouring of cosmic energy and humor and anger and sexual frustration and dirtiness that you just can’t find in anything else,” she says.

When we talked about Funkadelic’s One Nation Under a Groove, she said, “Oh man, that album just grooves in your stomach and your body,” and I didn’t really get it but went along with it anyway. I didn’t want the poetry to seem over my head. But now, going on the fifth day sitting in the library writing and opening blank Word documents and writing and listening to George Clinton’s voice and writing, I get it. When you really get into writing, and I mean really get into it, where your fingers fly over the keyboard or your hands slide over the page, you’re in a groove. And you can’t stop listening, you can’t stop writing, and you’re not you anymore. You’re something greater than yourself, and maybe you don’t fully understand it yet but you’re trying to figure it out.

Listening to Funkadelic is like listening to passion incarnate. The claps and the cowbell and the backup singers who blend into the melody so well you barely recognize them as human—they all come together in a balanced chaos that I don’t really understand but I do, too. It’s the same balanced chaos of passion. Now, I have a lot of passions (just a few days ago I got in a heated argument about how pumpkins are just overhyped squash, for instance), but I’m really, really passionate about two things: writing and kindness.

I think I black out a lot when I write. Something washes over me and then I’ll check my phone and it’s two hours later and I’ve written four pages and I know what they’re about but could not for the life of me tell you what happened around me during those two hours. Every time, I feel the writing in my bones. It breaks my heart and repairs it, over and over again.

The opposite happens with kindness, though. Every few weeks my mom reminds me it’s important to be kind—to brighten somebody’s day and help somebody smile. “It’s the best thing you can do for someone,” she says. Kindness, true kindness, where you compliment somebody because they deserve it or you listen to somebody who needs to be heard, is so raw it makes my heart swell.

But when you’re out of the groove for too long—away from your passions for too long—it feels like you’re missing some part of yourself.

Like when I got too swamped with work to write, spending fourteen hours a day at the library and then passing out the second I lay down at night. My eyes hurt so much from staring at Word documents and online articles that the idea of keeping them open for thirty minutes longer to look at more words was painful. And then one of my professors asked us if we kept journals or diaries, and I was about to say I did when I realized I hadn’t picked mine up since August. So the next morning, November 1st, I brought my journal with me throughout the day and filled up eight pages with things I didn’t know I felt.

And like when I told one of my friends how a drunk man had followed me home the night before, shouting terrifying things about what he saw and what he wanted to see, and she said, “That sucks, I’m sorry.” Then she ducked her head back into her book, and I was alone next to her. But when I told one of my friends from home, she said, “I don’t really know how to help you feel better or what I should say, but I am so sorry, and if you ever want to talk about it I’ll always listen to you.” And I put my head on her shoulder and nearly cried. Her kindness helped make me feel more whole.

And one of the best parts of life is when these moments of wholeness and passion pop up randomly.

Like when I was sitting on a bench on day and a leaf, split red and yellow right down the middle, landed in my lap. I picked it up and studied the light brown veins that kept the leaf together, and wrote a three-page, terrible poem about it. “Bad art,” my friend calls it. “It’s meant to be bad,” she says. And that what makes it beautiful, I always think. That poem is one of my favorite things I’ve written.

And when a friend texted me, “Hey beautiful!!! I wanted to send a quick text to encourage you today to live your best Monday even though Mondays are terrible. I hope that school life will be less stressful for you and that you're able to remember how truly loved you are by all of your close friends. Hoping and praying that you have an uplifting week and a wonderful day.” I felt a surge of love pump through my heart.

When you feel something, a stirring, maybe, in places you didn’t know existed inside you—that’s when you know you’re in love with something. And when you get so mesmerizingly lost in something—that’s when you know you’re passionate about it. I’ve rarely had one without the other.

And that’s what makes One Nation Under a Groove so interesting and confusing to me, because it stirs things inside me and I can feel it course through my bloodstream, and I just appreciate it. I don’t love it. I’m not passionate about it. It’s not writing or kindness or the people I love. It’s not a music that I can’t live without.

It’s just really, really good.

—Nicole Efford