Music Memorial Sites | Flickr / Creative Commons / Maxiub

Ndugu Chancler Obituary

Ndugu Chancler (Photo by Steve Grayson/WireImage)
Ndugu Chancler (Photo by Steve Grayson/WireImage)
Ndugu Chancler, legendary session drummer who played on Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” has died at the age of 65, according to multiple news sources.

His wife, Brenda, confirmed his death to Rolling Stone. A cause of death was not released at this time.

Chancler was on the drums for three tracks from Michael Jackson’s hit album “Thriller.” In addition to “Billie Jean,” he played on “P.Y.T.” and “Baby Be Mine.”

He was an in-demand studio drummer who played with many greats including Miles Davis, Lionel Ritchie, Santana, and Eric Clapton.

Chancler also co-wrote the Dazz Band’s 1982 hit dance funk song “Let It Whip.”

Click to get weekly celebrity death news delivered to your inbox.

He was born Leon Chancler in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1952.

While staying active as a musician, he also became an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Southern California and taught at the Stanford Jazz Workshop.

Many musicians paid tribute to Chancler on social media.

Quest Love, drummer for The Roots, talked about Chancler’s drumming skills on “Billie Jean” on Instagram:

“In my opinion, the “Billie Jean” intro is the greatest example of something so simple that you take it for granted. But if you truly dissect it. It’s a complex compelling performance. The tone is spot on. Enough snap on the snare but not too thin that it enters Ska/James Brown crack snare territory. The amount of reverb Bruce Swedien applies is SPOT on perfect. The performance However is timeless like a tuxedo. Or a pair of chucks. Or jeans and white t shirt. It literally gives MJ his dna...”

Mark Schulman, tour drummer for Pink, on Twitter:

“RIP dear Ndugu Chancler you were such a drumming influence and a gentleman to me! Love and light to your family!”

Read Full Obituary for Ndugu Chancler

Guest Book Highlights

If you need help finding the right words, view our Suggested Entries

Other obituaries

Published online on February 3, 2018 courtesy of
Ndugu Chancler, legendary session drummer who played on Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," has died at the age of 65, according to multiple news sources. For full coverage and obituary from,... Read Obituary

Search Memorials


About This Site: Music Memorials

The Music Memorial Site includes obituaries and Guest Books from the network of newspaper and funeral home affiliates.