I'm the way I always was. I got to play fresh stuff and old stuff at the same time. I can play the hits, I can be old-school but also slip in the hip-hop. I've been doing this for so long, I can't change now. If I ever play just old stuff, I'll retire. You just can't go out there and look to the past. That's not good for anybody.
When will you retire?
I'll never retire. I'm having too much fun doing what I do. I still have plenty of years left. I'm not like people working a regular job. I love what I do.
Do you ever feel as though you're perceived as a court jester as much as a funk singer?
I don't worry about that. I do what I do for a reason. How I dress and everything is protection so I don't ever take myself too seriously. I can be whatever I want to be onstage and not have to worry about anything. I can wear a lot or I can wear a little. There's not enough people dressing differently than the audience anymore. I like to have a little fun when I get up there.
What inspired the diaper as stagewear?
I did it just to be different. I wanted to be stylin'. I wanted to have fun. I started wearing it around 1972. I haven't worn the diaper since about 1974. But it was a blast to do it. It was an innovation. People still talk about me and the diaper. What I did with the diaper obviously worked.
At your age, wouldn't it be more appropriate to wear the diaper now?
No. I don't need it. I'm doing just fine at this point without a diaper.
During your heyday, Parliament had one of the most outrageous stage shows. There was the mothership, the pyrotechnics and, of course, you. Whatever happened to the art of the big show?
HipÐhop came along and changed everything. Kids naturally hate their parents' music, so it all has to be different, including the show. Hip-hop - the DNA of funk is in hip-hop - changed the landscape of shows, and we changed right along with it. It's a shame, because a lot of these kids have no idea what a great show is about. It's an event. It's entertainment. I'm sad [about] how that has changed. There were some brilliant entertainers back in the day. It wasn't just us. But now look around and who is bringing that kind of entertainment?
What is the love of your life?
The funk. I can't live without the funk.
You're an icon who has experienced about everything there is to experience. What advice do you have for young recording artists?
I'm not trying to give out no advice, but I will say that I love to do this. I think it's important to do what you like to do in life. If you do that, well, you don't feel like you're working, and that's important. It's all reward, doing what you do. I feel successful every time I do what I do. You live this way and you'll have no regrets. But then again, I don't know any other way to live.
George Clinton 8 p.m. Thursday, January 15 House of Blues 308 Euclid Ave. 216.523.2583 Tickets: $29.50-$46