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Clyde Stubblefield (1943 - 2017)

Lloyd Bishop / NBC / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Clyde Stubblefield (1943 - 2017)

Clyde Stubblefield, the funk drummer for James Brown and one of the most sampled drummers of all time, died Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, of kidney failure, according to The Associated Press. He was 73.

Stubblefield died in Madison, Wisconsin, after being hospitalized for several days. He had kidney disease during the past decade.

One of the great funk drummers, Stubblefield was the creator of the break in James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” that became one of the most sampled pieces of music in history. The sample can be heard in “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, “Let Me Ride,” by Dr. Dre, and “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J. According to Rolling Stone magazine, the break has been sampled more than 1,000 times.

“We were sitting up in the studio, getting ready for a session, and I guess when I got set up I just started playing a pattern,” Stubblefield recalled about the creation of the famous drum break.

Not listed as a songwriter on the track, he received little in the way of royalties or other compensation for the popular break beyond the original recording session fees.

He began drumming for Brown in 1965. During this period, the band featured two drummers, and Stubblefield played alongside fellow percussionist John “Jabo” Starks. They can be heard on several of Brown’s influential albums such as “Cold Sweat” (1967), “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” (1969) and “Sex Machine” (1970). Together, they formed the foundation of the funk style of drumming.


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Born April 18, 1943, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Stubblefield parlayed an early enthusiasm for music into a career. Before joining Brown’s band, he toured with soul music legend Otis Redding.

Upon news of his death, musicians took to social media to salute the master of breakbeats.

“The Funky Funkiest Drummer Of All Time. Clyde Stubblefield thank you for everything you taught me. The spirit of the greatest grace note left hand snare drummer will live on thru all of us. #RIP,” wrote the Roots’ Questlove on Instagram.

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