Friday, September 13, 2019

P-Funk Artist Pedro Bell’s Three Best Album Covers

Pedro Bell—the artist and illustrator responsible for Funkadelic’s iconic, mind-blowing album covers—died on August 27. He was 69. The cause of his death has not been announced. Bell’s imaginative cover art played a significant role in the P-Funk experience and contributed immensely to the band’s mythology. For the Funkadelic album covers, Bell created an alternative Afrofuturist universe filled with psychedelic sci-fi imagery and assorted freakazoid characters. He also wrote the liner notes for Funkadelic’s albums under the name Sir Lleb, which is his surname spelled backwards.  In celebration of the artist, I’ve written up short reviews of my top three Pedro Bell album covers.

Hardcore Jollies – Funkadelic (1976)

This is my favorite Pedro Bell album cover. It’s emblazoned with rich, vivid colors and eye-popping images. Bell’s wild imagination was at its most fertile during the creation of this dazzling cover art. It just jumps right out at you. The album cover is strange and otherworldly but also quite beautiful. It’s not just one of Bell’s best album covers; it’s one of the best album covers period.

Cosmic Slop – Funkadelic (1973)

Cosmic Slop was Bell’s first album cover for Funkadelic, and it’s a stone-cold masterpiece. It’s at once horrifying, weird and brilliant. He visually captured what the band was all about—bold irreverence, unconventionality and pure invention. And it's all topped off with ample dollops of freakiness. After Bell began doing the Funk Mob’s cover art, enjoying a new Funkadelic album was no longer just an auditory experience but a visual one as well. Owners of new Funkadelic albums would pore over Bell’s bizarre, surrealistic cover art while listening to the band’s new tracks.

One Nation Under a Groove — Funkadelic (1978)

Bell’s amazing cover art for Funkadelic’s landmark album One Nation Under a Groove puts an Afrocentric twist on the iconic Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima photograph. Bell replaces the U.S. Marines with a motley funk crew of men and women raising a Pan-African flag with R&B emblazoned on it. It’s quite a powerful statement about black identity and empowerment. It’s also a strong statement about the power of black music and how it has always been the pulse and bedrock of American music. There is a lot less going on here than on most of Bell’s Funkadelic album covers, but it’s just as effective in grabbing your attention.

Pedro Bell left behind a wealth of great artwork, and he'll always be remembered by Funkateers for his incredible cover art. Rest easy Captain Draw.

Related blog entry: Pedro Bell: Picasso of P-Funk

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