Pedro Bell, a Chicago artist who helped create the powerfully trippy mythos for George Clinton and Funkadelic, designing colorful album covers that looked as if they might have been birthed in outer space, has died, according to Clinton and bassist Bootsy Collins.
It was psychedelic from a black perspective,” Mr. Bell said in a 2009 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.
At the time, he was suffering from multiple health problems, had fallen on hard times and was living at the Hyde Park Arms, a single-room-occupancy hotel at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue.
He was near-blind and on dialysis as a result of kidney damage from hypertension and “recently beat an eviction order on a court technicality.”
The details of his death weren’t immediately clear.
In the interview, Mr. Bell said he hadn’t profited financially from his artistic association with some of the primogenitors of Afrofuturistic funk and soul.
Talking about how he started, he said he offered to create art for Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic after hearing their music on WXFM, known as Triad, an underground 1970s Chicago radio station. “I found the record company and sent a letter and said I wanted to do stuff,” he said, and began by doing concert posters and playbills.
In a post Tuesday night, the Facebook page for George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic referred to him by his artist’s name, Sir Lleb — that’s Bell spelled backward: “RIP to Funkadelic album cover illustrator Pedro Bell (1950-2019). Rest easy, Sir Lleb!”
In additional posts on Wednesday, it said: “He rose above it all. Pedro Bell aka Sir Lleb. (1950-2019)” and “One of the great aspects of Pedro’s artistry is the fact that many of his illustrations come from actual pictures. Mainly promo shots. Art imitates life which imitates Funk! Now that’s Zeep! Rest well, Sir Lleb!
Going by Sir Lleb, Mr. Bell would write album liner notes using punny phraseology and terms like “Funkapus” and “Thumpasaurus.”
Robert Harris, manager of the Hyde Park Arms, said Wednesday he remembered Mr. Bell and his undulating artwork even though he moved out years ago.
“He was a nice guy,” Harris said. “Everybody got along with him.”
Collins tweeted: “We lost the Master Mind behind the Graphic’s & Artwork of Funkadelic. Mr. Pedro Bell is an American artist and illustrator best known for his elaborate cover designs and other artwork for numerous Funkadelic and George Clinton solo albums. Thxs for yr service our brother.”
His work was included with pieces by Andy Warhol and Ed Paschke in a 2007-2008 exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, “Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock ’n’ Roll Since 1967.”
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