“The Voice” Belita Woods, sweet and gritty vocalist of P-Funk and the Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown, has passed into that great celestial spacegroove beyond. Belita went to see a doctor today, May 14. While one report says she had rejected a medical treatment and passed from a heart attack at the medical center, another source says she suffered a major heart attack just after leaving the doctor’s, perhaps unrelated to the appointment [report pending]. Just one year ago, the funky diva underwent open heart surgery, had a stroke, and was in a coma. Nonetheless, she worked on her health, and even just a week ago, friends say Belita was pumped to get back on the road this year to tour. Belita alongside of her new band the Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown were recent nominees of the Hollywood Music & Media Awards for 2012 Country Song of the Year AND nominated by the Los Angeles Music Awards for 2012 Album of the Year.
“I had just talked to her about 4 or 5 days ago- it felt like we were just becoming close” Dawn Silva of The Brides of Funkenstein told FMN tonight. The two funk divas had been reminiscing on their respective journeys in different generations in P-Funk, which Dawn had veered off around ’78, and Belita joined about ten years later. Belita became the longest-touring and recording female member of the iconic group, acting as a mentor and friend to the younger P-funktresses, Kendra Foster and Kim Manning.
Her bandmates, friends and fans are mourning and celebrating her memory with endearing social media posts and photos online. Just yesterday, Bootsy Collins paid his (Facebook) respects to Donald “Duck ” Dunn, the bassist for Booker T & the M.G.’s in the ’60s and Stax session player. Tonight he put a note up about Belita as well. “Belita Woods? 😦 Still reeling from “Duck” Dunn, but reminded that we need to see, hear, support and give thanks to the artists that make a joyful noise, while we can.”
Belita’s most recent work is spotlighted on the upcoming album, as part of the Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown‘s album, Volume 1, which is officially set for its physical release May 23, 2012 (NEXT WEEK). The album has been steadily capturing more critics’ attention since January and already has an award under its belt– winning Best Funk Song of the Year for “College Funk” in 2011 by the Hollywood Music & Media Awards this past year. Come November, Belita’s track with Atlanta, GA co-writer Ralph Rodenberry.“Wake Me Up” is nominated to take home the bacon for the Best Country Song of the Year at the same show, an amazing cross-over feat for any funk artist.
Recently, producer and bassist John Heintz reported that Belita was elated to receive the nomination. She had joked to friends that she was happy her vocals had been holding up– railing against over five decades of sanging hard, laughing harder, (and perhaps a bit of her favorite Jack Daniels and 20+ years of P-Funkin’)- the recipe that gave her that sultry, smokey rasp we all know and love. She was making steps to get herself ready for the limelight again, especially because she was so excited for more work with the supergroup. She was convinced the album and the song would blow everyone away.
In an interview from the Getdown’s Youtube page, Belita attested “I think I’m gonna be famous, and you know why–when I heard that [track] back, I said, That’s it, I’m on the map! I guarantee you, this CD is really going to surprise everybody…This is the one. You won’t be disappointed. This is going to smash it out!”
Below, Belita talks more about working with The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown, the innovative supergroup consisting of around 100 musicians from top funk bands throughout the past fifty years. The legendary project was initiated by producer/bassist John Heintz, who pulled together the icons into a New Orleans mansion in 2007 for a week of collaborations spanning generations of funk musicianship. The list of members who then joined in on the project is too long to list, but check out their blog to get a scope of the rundown. Rumor has it Volume II is already underway, with a whole new approach.
In the interview, Belita recalls her first release with Motown in 1969, though she had been on the scene in Detroit even before then. In the 70’s she led the band Brainstorm (listen to “Journey To The Light” or “We’re On Our Way Home”). She discusses being able to “change her voice” to apply all vocal parts for George Clinton’s band as of ’89. She gets so excited about The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown’s partnership between new and legendary players and recording in New Orleans, funky mountain town Asheville, North Carolina, and Tallahassee, Florida.
“I worked with the baddest musicians, Kendra Foster, Laura Reed, Garry Shider was going’ on, you know that was P-Funk’s diaper man…and we finished it in George Clinton’s studio in Tallahasse, the Mothership Studio,” Belita grins. [[The Big Ol’ Nasty GetDown also suffered the loss of Garry Shider in 2010. This is the second major blow for the band during the process of releasing this album. RIP Garry Shider]]
Below, dig a peek of Volume 1’s “Room 2012” featuring footage of the making of the album. You can see Belita smiling and rocking out with the crew in shots throughout the vid.
Belita, may you forever funk on in heavenly grace. You are always “famous” to those of us who love and remember your special presence, humor, talent and gifts. May the funk live on and the memory of these iconic players be taken with grace and appreciation. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and memories here or on George Cinton & Parliament Funkadelic’s Facebook page. Belita, you’re on your way home….