Do you ever just play "Maggot Brain" at full blast and zone out on the blistering ten minutes of Eddie Hazel soloing like a madman? Because I do, often.
- derek erdman
Eddie Hazel was born on April 10, 1950 in Brooklyn, New York. His mother Grace wanted to steer him away from a life of drugs and crime, so she moved him to Plainfield, New Jersey. His brother gave him a guitar for Christmas at a young age and Eddie started singing at church. At age 12, Eddie Hazel met Bill "Bass" Nelson and they quickly became close friends.
In 1967, a Plainfield doo-wop group called the Parliaments had a hit with "(I Wanna) Testify." The leader of the group, George Clinton, needed a backing band to tour and picked Bill Nelson to play bass. Nelson suggested adding Eddie Hazel on guitar. Hazel was only 17 at the time and his mother wasn't fond of the idea, but Clinton & Hazel convinced her it would be a good idea. Eventually the Parliaments became Funkadelic.
On the first track of Funkadelic's third album called Maggot Brain, Eddie Hazel was reported told by Clinton to imagine he had been told his mother was dead, but then learned that it was not true. The result was a track described by a critic as Funkadelic's A Love Supreme and was voted by Rolling Stone as number 60 of the 100 greatest guitar songs of all time.
Hazel eventually left Funkadelic over a financial dispute with George Clinton, though he continued to work sporadically with the group for years afterward. Every song on 1974's Standing on the Verge of Getting It On (my go-to Funkadelic record, for sure) was co-written by Hazel. Later that year, Hazel was arrested for drug possession and for assaulting an airline stewardess and an air marshal.
On December 23, 1992, Hazel died from internal bleeding and liver failure.