He was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey. In Plainfield, he ran a barber salon, where he straightened hair, and soon formed a barbershop quintet, inspired by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, called The Parliaments. Despite initial failures, the Parliaments eventually found success under the names Parliament and Funkadelic in the seventies (see also P Funk). This article will focus on his solo efforts after 1981. For information on The Parliaments, Parliament or Funkadelic, see their respective articles, or P Funk.
Usually recording under the name George Clinton & the P.Funk All-Stars, Clinton recorded several solo albums. The primary reason was legal difficulties, due to the complex copyright and trademark issues surrounding the name "Parliament" (primarily) and Polygram's purchase of his former label (as part of Parliament), Casablanca. In 1982, Clinton signed to Capitol Records as a solo artist and as the P.Funk All-Stars, releasing Computer Games that same year. "Loopzilla" hit the Top 20 R&B charts, followed by "Atomic Dog," which reached #1 R&B but peaked at #101 on the pop chart. In the next three years, Clinton released three more studio albums (You Shouldn't-Nuf Bit Fish, Some of My Best Jokes Are Friends and R&B Skeletons in the Closet) as well as a live album, Mothership Connection (Live from the Summit, Houston, Texas) and charting three singles in the R&B Top 30, "Nubian Nut," "Last Dance," and "Do Fries Go with that Shake." This period included multiple legal problems (resulting in financial difficulties) due to complex royalty and copyright issues. His popularity waned in the mid 1980s, but was revived by the rise of rap music (particularly, in the 1990s, G Funk), as many rappers cited him as an influence and began sampling him.
In 1989, Clinton released The Cinderella Theory on Paisley Park, Prince's record label. This was followed by Hey Man, Smell My Finger. Clinton then signed with Sony 550 and released T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (the awesome power of a fully operational mothership) in 1996, having reunited with several old members of Parliament and Funkadelic.
In 1990, Clinton began a mildly successful acting career, mostly playing himself in films such as Grafiti Bridge (1990) and PCU (1994). Clinton also became active in composing and recording songs for the movie industry with credits in PCU, Can't Hardly Wait (1998), Muppets From Space (1999), Romeo Must Die and Charlie's Angels (both from 2000).
On December 6, 2003, Clinton was arrested for drug possession in Tallahassee, Florida.