Bernie Worrell, the ingenious "Wizard of Woo" whose amazing array of keyboard sounds and textures helped define the Parliament-Funkadelic musical empire and influenced performers of funk, rock, hip-hop, and other genres, has died. Worrell, who announced early this year that he had Stage 4 lung cancer, died Friday at age 72 at his home in Everson, Washington, according to his wife, Judie Worrell. Worrell was among the first musicians to use a Moog synthesizer, and his mastery brought comparisons to Jimi Hendrix's innovations on guitar, the AP reports. Anything seemed possible when he was on keyboards, conjuring squiggles, squirts, stutters, and hiccups on Parliament's "Flash Light" that sounded like funk as if conceived by Martians.
Worrell's contributions as a keyboardist, writer, and arranger didn't bring him a lot of money, but fellow musicians paid attention. He played with Talking Heads for much of the 1980s and was featured in their acclaimed concert documentary Stop Making Sense. He also toured frequently on his own and released such solo records as "Funk of Ages," "Blacktronic Science," and most recently, "Retrospective." Worrell also contributed to albums by Keith Richards, Yoko Ono, Nona Hendryx, Manu Dibango ,and the Pretenders. In 2015, he was a member of Meryl Streep's backing group in the movie Ricki and the Flash. "Kindness comes off that man like stardust," Streep said during a 2016 benefit concert for Worrell at Manhattan's Webster Hall. (Read more Parliament-Funkadelic stories.)