Death Of Clyde Stubblefield, James Brown’s ‘Funky Drummer’

February 19, 2017

Clyde Stubblefield, who played drums with James Brown during some of his most celebrated years and created the endlessly-sampled break on 1970's 'Funky Drummer,' died yesterday (18 February) of kidney failure. He was 73.

“We lost another Pillar Stone that held up the Foundation of Funk,” wrote his fellow member of Brown's band, and later funk figurehead, Bootsy Collins on Facebook. “Mr. Clyde Stubblefield has left our frequency. I am lost for words & Rythme right now. Dang Clyde! U taught me so much as I stood their watchin' over u & Jabo while keepin' one eye on the Godfather. We all loved U so much.”

Here's Stubblefield in action as a member of James Brown's band at his famous Boston Garden show of 1968:

Funky DrummerIronically, among the many Brown classics on which Stubblefield played, 'Funky Drummer' was not one of the Godfather of Soul's biggest hits, reaching No. 20 on the R&B and only No. 51 pop. But it went on, effectively, to create the hip-hop breakbeat, sampled more than a thousand times on such staples as Public Enemy's 'Fight The Power,' LL Cool J's 'Mama Said Knock You Out' and, often, in the pop world, on such hits as George Michael's 'Freedom '90.' Public Enemy wrote on Twitter: “R.I.P. to the 'funky drummer' - Clyde Stubblefield - from the entire PE family.”

Stubblefield was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1943, and was a professional drummer even in his teens. He joined Brown's band in 1965 and became one of the soul legend's two drummers of choice into the early 1970s, along with John 'Jabo' Starks. Clyde played on such enduring tracks by Brown as 'Cold Sweat,' 'There Was A Time,' 'Say It Loud – I'm Black And I'm Proud' and 'Get Up (I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine).'

ClydeStubblefield2He subsequently worked with countless other musicians, releasing his first solo album The Revenge of the Funky Drummer in 1997 and recording in the early 2000s with Starks as the Funkmasters. In 2008, with another Brown bandmate, trombonist Fred Wesley, he released Funk For Your Ass.

"People use my drum patterns on a lot of these songs," Stubblefield said in an interview with the New York Times in 2011. "They never gave me credit, never paid me. It didn't bug me or disturb me, but I think it’s disrespectful not to pay people for what they use."

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