By Fred Mills
One of the most acclaimed – and sampled – drummers, Clyde Stubblefield, passed away yesterday, Feb. 18, from kidney failure. He was 73.
Stubblefield of course was James Brown’s drummer at the time Brown and his JB’s cut signature track “The Funky Drummer.” The 1970 tune, or more accurately the 20-second drum fill in the middle of the song, would one day become one of the most recognizable and heavily sampled loop in hip-hop history.Think Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” “Bring the Noise” and “Rebel Without a Pause,” N.W.A’s “Fuck tha Police” and Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride,” LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” Run-D.M.C.’s “Run’s House” and Beastie Boys’ “Shadrach.”
Below, you can hear the track, and after that is a video that instructs you how to actually play the drum loop.
Stubblefield had played with Otis Redding and worked as a session man before joining Brown’s band in 1965. After leaving in 1971 he continued working, releasing some solo records and also forming the Funkmasters. According to Rolling Stone he was in poor health in recent years:
“While Stubblefield did not have health insurance, in April 2016, Stubblefield revealed that Prince secretly paid the $90,000 in medical bills the drummer accumulated while undergoing chemotherapy for bladder cancer. Prince considered Stubblefield one of his “drumming idols,” Stubblefield told Billboard following Prince’s death.”
Accolades from across the musical spectrum have poured in following his death, among them Bootsy Collins, who wrote on Facebook Saturday “We lost another Pillar Stone that held up the Foundation of Funk,” And Questlove wrote on Instagram on Saturday, “The Funky Funkiest Drummer Of All Time, Clyde Stubblefield thank you for everything you’ve taught me. The spirit of the greatest grace note left hand snare drummer will live on thru all of us.”