Ain’t It Funky? James Brown’s Most Sampled Drummer, Clyde Stubblefield, Dies at 73

Clyde Stubblefield on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon on March 29, 2011 (Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Now, anyone who knows the genius of James Brown knows that that man kept “the pocket” thumping. Sadly, one of the drivers of Brown’s most iconic grooves—and one of hip-hop’s most sampled drummers—Clyde Stubblefield, has died. He was 73.

Stubblefield died of kidney failure at a Madison, Wis., hospital Saturday, according to the Associated Press.


In the 1960s and ’70s, Stubblefield was the beat behind Brown classics such as “Cold Sweat,” “Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud,” “I’ve Got the Feelin’” and the album Sex Machine, but he was best-known for a short solo on Brown’s 1970 single “Funky Drummer.”

Rolling Stone reports that “Funky Drummer” was sampled on over 1,000 songs. His drum loops were featured on innumerable hip-hop classics, including Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride,” LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” and Run-DMC’s “Run’s House.” “Funky Drummer” also found its way to Ed Sheeran’s “Shirtsleeves” and George Michael’s “Freedom ’90,” the magazine said.

Although Stubblefield’s wife, Jody Hennon, said the stick man saw “very little” in royalties, she said that he never expected them. But his genius was recognized—and rewarded—by other musicians.

In 2000, when Prince found out that Stubblefield was deep in debt from a bout with bladder cancer, he personally, and quietly, paid $80,000 to cover his bills, she said. “Clyde was considered his favorite drummer,” said Hennon.


Stubblefield was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., but had lived in Madison, his wife’s hometown, since the early 1970s, when he played on the local scene.

“He played here one time with James Brown and just fell in love with it,” Hannon said.


Many musicians took to social media to recognize this unsung hero of the beat.


Read more at the Associated Press.

Share This Story

About the author

Angela Helm

Ms. Bronner Helm is a Contributing Editor at The Root. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.