His meticulously detailed images and liner notes helped shape Funkadelic’s unique aesthetic
By: Linnea Crowther
23 days ago
Pedro Bell was the self-taught artist who created some of Funkadelic’s most iconic album covers. Bell also wrote liner notes for the albums under the name Sir Lleb, and his intricate images and text helped shape Funkadelic’s unique aesthetic. A fan of Funkadelic’s early music, the Chicago native reached out to their record label in the early 1970s to show them his artwork and ask if it could be used for the band. George Clinton, Funkadelic’s bandleader, liked Bell’s work so much that he asked him to design the cover for their next album, 1973’s “Cosmic Slop.” Bell went on to design covers for a number of Funkadelic’s albums, including their most successful, 1978’s “One Nation Under a Groove.” Fans pored over Bell’s richly detailed covers, finding something new every time they looked. Bell also designed album covers for Clinton’s solo work, as well as working day jobs as a postal worker and security guard.
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Died: August 27, 2019 (Who else died on August 27?)
Details of death: Died at the age of 69.
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The cover that they were too scared to print: The last cover Bell designed for Funkadelic was for 1981’s “The Electric Spanking of War Babies,” the final album the band released before their dissolution. So overtly sexual was the cover art that Warner Brothers, the band’s record label, wouldn’t approve it. So Bell designed a large green sticker to be applied over the artwork, reading “OH LOOK! The cover that “They” were TOO SCARED to print!” Small cutouts in the sticker were flanked by instructions to “Peek here” and “Peek here too.”
Notable quote: “It was psychedelic from a black perspective. …We believed where the funk was going to take us. We’ve got philosophy to back up the music.” —from a 2009 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times
What people said about him: “Pedro’s correspondence gave me an idea for how we could move Funkadelic up a notch, how we could take what we were doing musically and onstage and capture some of that anarchic energy in album packages. I talked through ‘Cosmic Slop’ with Pedro on the telephone, and his mind translated it into a strange vision told in half-visual and half-verbal language. When he sent us his interpretation I was blown away. It was nightmarish and funny and beautiful, a perfect fit for the music.” —George Clinton in his 2014 memoir
“RIP Pedro Bell. Checking out my dad’s Funkadelic album covers as a kid was one of the first steps to breaking open my brain. He was a pioneer in pure imagination and extreme badassery. He could truly see. He had the funk. Enjoy the astral plane Sir Lleb!” —Animator Chris Prynosky
“Half the experience of Funkadelic was the actual music vibrating out of those wax grooves. The other half was reading the covers with a magnifying glass while you listened. There was always more to scrutinize, analyze, and strain your eyes. Funkadelic covers were a hedonistic landscape where sex coursed like energy, politics underlay every pun, and madness was just a bigger overview.” —Artist Tym Stevens
Full obituary: Rolling Stone