Skip to main content

Clyde Stubblefield, James Brown's original 'Funky Drummer', dies aged 73

Clyde Stubblefield, drummer for James Brown during some of the funk superstar's peak years, and the man who created and performed one of the world's most sampled drum breaks, died of kidney failure on Saturday.

Stubblefield featured on many classic Brown recordings during the 1960s and early 1970s, but will always be best remembered for the break that featured on over 1000 recordings, dominating hip-hop (alongside the legendary Amen Break). 

You can hear the instantly recognisable beat on classics like Public Enemy’s Fight the Power, Dr. Dre’s Let Me Ride, and LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out. It also appears on many more mainstream tracks, including George Michael's Freedom '90. 

Of creating the legendary track itself, Stubblefield recalled, "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. 

... if Brown liked it, I just said, 'Well, I'll put something with it.'

"The bassline came in and the guitar came in and we just had a rhythm going, and if Brown liked it, I just said, 'Well, I'll put something with it.'"

However, Stubblefield was uncredited as a songwriter on the track so saw few earnings from decades of heavy sampling.

"People use my drum patterns on a lot of these songs," he told 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."

He was reputed to be Prince's favourite drummer, revealing after the star's death that he'd settled debts Stubblefield had accumulated during cancer treatment.

His wife, Jody Hannon, confirmed his death, and that he'd been suffering from kidney disease for a decade.

Many musicians and stars have been quick to react to the news.

See more
See more
See more