Clyde Stubblefield, James Brown's Funky Drummer, Dies At 73

Clyde Stubblefield, the funk drummer whose work with James Brown made him one of the most sampled musicians in history, died Saturday morning in Madison, Wisc., his publicist confirmed. Stubblefield was 73; his publicist did not provide a cause of death.

For most of his career, Stubblefield was better known in sound than in name. He joined James Brown’s backing band in 1965, one of countless musicians on an ever-rotating roster. As he told NPR in 2015, the ensemble seemed to have more than enough drummers already when he showed up to audition. “I went on stage and there was five drum sets up there,” he explained. “And I’m going, ‘Wow, what do you need me for?’”

Still, his recordings with Brown managed to rise above the competition: Songs like “Cold Sweat,” “Say It Loud — I’m Black And I’m Proud” and “Mother Popcorn” are now revered as a gold standard for funk drumming. A generation later, he would have an even bigger impact on hip-hop, as the pattern he’d played on 1970’s “Funky Drummer” proved irresistible to producers. The track’s distinctive break, a sixteenth beat punctuated by deft, delicate snare hits, has been sampled on hundreds of songs. [Read More]


RIP to the original funky drummer Clyde Stubblefield

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Cold Sweat, Pts 1 & 2
James Brown

  James Brown - Cold Sweat, Parts 1 & 2


Many of James Brown’s funkiest songs were created around rhythms laid down by the drummer Clyde Stubblefield (above). Cold Sweat is my favourite, with its stuttering pent-up groove like no other. ‘We were in the studio just sitting around’ says Stubblefield. 'I’d start off playing something then the bass player would come in. Then the guitar player would come in. So Brown comes in and says “hey, let’s make a song outta that”. He starts singing “I don’t care…” and then the horns come in, and we got a song. Nobody planned it.’

I’ve always loved how every sound in this recording has space to breathe. Each instrument is distinct and audible, and each adds something precise and perfectly-formed to the ensemble. There’s nothing more instructive than the moment Brown shouts for a drum solo, lets it ride for a few bars, then starts to call the other musicians back in one by one. He takes the song apart then puts it back together piece by piece, and suddenly you understand how the whole complex performance stems from that initial sound of one man playing the drums. In fact, the band recorded the song in a single live take with all twelve bandmembers playing round one microphone. There’s something very satisying about this. Perhaps it’s a reminder that great music can be made very simply indeed.



Whether you know it or not, you’ve heard Clyde Stubblefield.  While the man himself is best known as being the funky drummer for James Brown (“Give the drummer some!”), his sick breakbeat groove at 5:25 of James Brown’s song (not ironically also called) “Funky Drummer,” is the most sampled drum beat in hip-hop.  Here’s an incomplete list:

     2 Live Crew - “Coolin’”
     808 State - “Pacific 202”
     A Tribe Called Quest - “Seperate / Together”
     Above the Law - “Murder Rap”
     Above the Law - “Untouchables”
     Above the Law - “What Cha Can Prove”
     Allison Williams - “Sleep Talk”
     Another Def Creation - “The Beat Keeper”
     Awesome Dre - “Frankly Speaking”
     Beastie Boys - “Shadrach”
     Big Daddy Kane - “Mortal Combat”
     Biz Markie - “Spring Again”
     Black Rock & Ron - “Stop the World”
     Breeze - “Great Big Freak”
     BWP - “A Different Category”
     Cash Money & Marvelous - “Drawers”
     Choice MC - “Bad A-s Bitch”
     Chubb Rock - “Bump the Floor”
     Chubb Rock - “Talkin’ Loud, Ain’t Sayin’ Jack”
     Coldcut - “Say Kids, What Time is It?”
     Compton’s Most Wanted - “The Final Chapter”
     Compton’s Most Wanted - “Wanted”
     Convicts - “I Like Boning”
     CPO - “Flow to the Rhythm”
     Criminal Nation - “I’m Rollin’”
     Criminal Nation - “Insane”
     Criminal Nation - “It’s a Black Thing”
     Criminal Nation - “The Right Crowd”
     De la Soul - “Oodles of O’s”
     Deep Forest - “Deep Forest”
     Depeche Mode - “My Joy”
     Derek B - “Get Down”
     Derek B - “Human Time Bomb”
     Digable Planets - “Where I’m From”
     DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince - “2 Damn Hype”
     DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince - “Hip Hop Dancer’s Theme”
     DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince - “Jazzy’s Groove”
     DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince - “Magnificent Jazzy Jeff”
     DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince - “Pump up the Bass”
     DJ Mark the 45 King ft Lakim Shabazz - “When a Wise Man Speaks”
     DJ Master T - “Wind Me Up”
     DOC - “Let the Bass Go”
     Domination - “Back at it Again”
     Dr. Dre - “Let Me Ride”
     Eazy-E - “We Want Eazy”
     Enigma - “Carly’s Song”
     Eric B and Rakim - “Lyrics of Fury”
     Eric B and Rakim - “Relax with Pep”
     Father MC - “Ain’t it Funky”
     Fine Young Cannibals - “I’m Not the Man I Used to Be”
     Freddie Foxx - “F. F. is Here”
     Fresh 4 - “Wishing on a Star”
     Gang Starr - “2 Deep”
     George Michael - “Waiting for That Day/You Can’t Always Get…”
     Geto Boys - “Mind of a Lunatic”
     Geto Boys - “Read These Nikes”
     Goats - “TV Cops”
     Gus Gus - “Purple”
     Guy - “I Like”
     Hard Knocks - “A Blow to the Head”
     Heavy D - “Peaceful Journey”
     Heavy D - “We Got Our Own Thang”
     Hi-C - “Take a Ride”
     HWA - “Trick is a Trick”
     Ice Cube - “Endangered Species”
     Ice Cube - “Jackin’ for Beats”
     Ice T - “I Ain’t New Ta This”
     Ice T - “Original Gangster”
     Ice T - “Radio Suckers”
     James Brown - “She Looks All Types A’ Good”
     Jaz - “The Originators”
     Kid ‘N Play - “Foreplay”
     Kid 'N Play - “Slippin’”
     Kid Sensation - “Emergency”
     King Sun - “King Sun with the Sword”
     Kool G Rap - “It’s a Demo”
     Kool G Rap - “The Butcher Shop”
     Kool Moe Dee - “Bad, Bad, Bad”
     Kool Moe Dee - “I’m Blowing Up”
     Kool Moe Dee - “Knowledge is King”
     Korn & the Dust Brothers - “Kick the P.A.”
     Kris Kross - “Jump”
     Kris Kross - “Lil’ Boys in Da Hood”
     Kwame - “The Rhythm”
     Lakim Shabazz - “Black is Back”
     Leaders of the New School - “Sobb Story”
     Leaders of the New School - “Teachers, Don’t Teach Us Nonsense”
     LL Cool J - “Boomin’ System”
     LL Cool J - “Fast Peg”
     LL Cool J - “Mama Said Knock You Out”
     LL Cool J - “Nitro”
     LL Cool J - “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”
     Low Profile - “Make Room for…”
     Maestro Fresh Wes - “Let Your Backbone Slide”
     Mantronix - “Fresh is the Word”
     Mantronix ft Wondress - “Got to Have Your Love”
     Marky Mark - “Good Vibrations”
     Master Cylinder - “It’s Rhythm Part 1”
     Masters at Work - “Jus’ a Lil’ Dope”
     MC Lyte - “Brooklyn”
     MC Shan - “So Def”
     MC Shan - “So Fresh”
     MC Smooth - “Blow the Whistle”
     Mellow Man Ace - “Hypest from Cypress”
     Mellow Man Ace - “River Cubano”
     Michel'le - “No More Lies”
     Michie Mee - “Jamaican Funk Canadian Style”
     Ministere Amer - “Traitres”
     Mistress & DJ Madame E - “Hypergroove”
     Mistress & DJ Madame E - “Show 'em How We Play”
     MMG - “Only the Strong Survive”
     Mobb Deep - “Flavor for the Non-Believes”
     Nas - “Get Down”
     Naughty by Nature - “Hot Potato”
     Naughty by Nature - “Ready for Dem”
     New Order - “Ruined in a Day”
     Nikki D - “Freak Accident”
     Nikki D - “Gotta up the Ante for the Panties”
     Nine Inch Nails - “Piggy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now)”
     No Face - “Half”
     NWA - “Fuck tha Police”
     NWA - “Quiet on tha Set”
     P-Funk All Stars - “Dope Dogs”
     Paperboy - “The Nine Yards”
     Paris - “I Call Him Mad”
     Paris - “On the Prowl”
     Paris - “The Devil Made Me Do It”
     Pete Rock & CL Smooth - “Go with the Flow”
     Pharcyde - “Officer”
     Prince - “Gangster Glam”
     Prince - “Gett Off”
     Prince - “My Name is Prince”
     Prince Johnny C - “Comin’ to Get Ya”
     Prince Johnny C - “Kevey Kev is a Dancer with Soul”
     Public Enemy - “Bring the Noise”
     Public Enemy - “Bring the Noise”
     Public Enemy - “Fight the Power”
     Public Enemy - “Hazy Shade of Criminal”
     Public Enemy - “Rebel Without a Pause”
     Public Enemy - “She Watch Channel Zero”
     Public Enemy - “Terminator X to the Edge of Panic”
     Public Enemy - “The Enemy Assault Vehicle Mixx”
     Queen - “We Are the Champions”
     Redman - “Rated R”
     Roxanne Shante - “Have a Nice Day”
     Run-DMC - “Back from Hell”
     Run-DMC - “Beats to the Rhyme”
     Run-DMC - “Run’s House”
     Run-DMC - “Word is Born”
     Salt-N-Pepa - “Let the Rhythm Run”
     Scarface - “Born Killer”
     Sinead O'Connor - “I Am Stretched on Your Grave”
     Sir Mix-A-Lot - “No Holds Barred”
     Slayer & Atari Teenage Riot - “No Remorse (I Wanna Die)”
     Slick Rick - “The Moment I Feared”
     Smooth Ice - “I’m Coming”
     Smooth Ice - “Without a Pause”
     Sons of Bazerk - “One Time for the Rebel”
     South Central Cartel - “Neighborhood Jacka”
     Stetsasonic - “DBC Let the Music Play”
     Stetsasonic - “Sally”
     Stetsasonic - “Speaking of a Girl Named Suzy”
     Stetsasonic - “The Hip Hop Band”
     Stop the Violence Movement - “Self-Destruction”
     Style - “Victim to the Vinyl”
     Sublime - “Scarlet Begonias”
     Super Lover Cee & Casanova Rud - “Do the James”
     Super Lover Cee & Casanova Rud - “Let the Drummer Get Ill”
     Sweet T - “My Beat”
     Tim Dog - “Goin Wild in the Penile”
     Tim Dog - “Low Down Nigga”
     TLC - “Shock Dat Monkey”
     True Mathematics - “For the Lover in You”
     Tung Twista - “No Peace Sign”
     Tupac ft Richie Rich - “Lie to Kick It”
     Ultramagnetic MCs - “Give the Drummer Some”
     Ultramagnetic MCs - “Moe Love on the One & Two”
     Vanilla Ice - “Stop That Train”
     Wagon Christ - “Filthy Drummer”
     WC & the Maad Circle - “Ghetto Serenade”
     Yomo & Maulkie - “Mockingbird”
     YZ - “Return of the Holy One”
     Z-Trip - “Rockstar”
     Z-Trip - “Rockstar 2”

Stubblefield has so far received no compensation for the use of his drum track.


Clyde Stubblefield - Funk Thing (1999)


scratch yo self into
the grooves left in yo momma’s
record collection
all hip hop ever needed was
a james brown loop & a mic



“The Non Negotiables: Drummers” - Individuals and/or groups of creatives who I believe to be beyond reproach in their fields. Who are your “Non Negotiables”?

1. Elvin Jones

2. Levon Helm

3. Clyde Stubblefield

4. John Bonham

5. Steve Jordan

6. Stewart Copeland

7. Dave Weckl

8. Dave Lombardo

9. ?uestlove

10. Bill Ward
The Original Funky Drummers On Life With James Brown

Essentially competitors for the same seat, Stubblefield and Starks could easily have ended up as rivals. Starks says one reason they didn’t was that their skills weren’t redundant: Each brought something unique to the group.

“You have to understand this: We’re two different drummers,” he says. “Clyde plays the way that Clyde plays, which, nobody’s gonna play like Clyde. I play like I play. We can play the same tune, but different ways. You never played together on James’ shows, but when he wanted to hear something different from Clyde, he’d point to me.”

Both drummers say working with Brown could be tough. Musicians were pretty much at his beck and call — and he would even fine them when he felt they’d made a mistake.

“Sometimes you don’t have to make a mistake,” says Stubblefield, who says he had to pay Brown more than once. “You just do a little something different and he’d call that a fine, he’d fine you.” [Read More]