James Brown Drummer & Breakbeat Architect Clyde Stubblefield Dead At 73

blame it on JES7 February 18, 2017

2016 was admittedly a shitty year, with some of our favorite celebrities and musicians leaving us way too soon.

2017 hasn’t started off the way we wanted either. Aside from President Agent Orange making the White House white again, the new year saw a few legends, including jazz musicians David Axelrod and Al Jarreau pass away.

Now, it’s with a heavy heart we report that world-renowned funk/soul drummer Clyde Stubblefield has died at the age of 73 due to kidney failure.

For those who may be unfamiliar, Clyde is best known as the official drummer for James Brown, playing on some of Mr. Dynamite’s biggest hits, including “Funky Drummer,” “Cold Sweat,” “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” as well as James’ 1970 LP Sex Machine, which featured standouts like “Brother Rapp (Part I & Part II)” and “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose.”

In 2014, Clyde was dubbed the second best drummer by L.A. Weekly, with writer Andy Hermann stating “Stubblefield is one of the most sampled drummers in history, the man whose uncanny ability to deconstruct pop music’s simple 4/4 rhythms into a thousand different sly syncopations laid the foundation not only for funk, but for most of hip-hop, as well.”

The Funky Drummer’s work would inadvertently become the backbone for many Hip-Hop classics, as the rise of the breakbeat played a key role in the advent of Hip-Hop music, rightfully weaving itself into Hip-Hop’s genetic code, with his 20-second drum break on “Funky Drummer” being sampled by everyone from Dr. Dre, Public Enemy, Mos Def, Sublime, N.W.A. and even Prince.

Sadly, according to All About Jazz, Clyde was paid “virtually no royalties” due “to lax enforcement of recording ownership laws.”

To circumvent this, Clyde released his Funky Drummer Edition DVD in which he “recorded a set of ready-to-sample beats” according to the New York Times. “By filling out a basic licensing form, anyone willing to pay royalties of 15 percent on any commercial sales — and give credit — can borrow the sound of one of the architects of modern percussion.”

Words can’t express the thought of losing yet another brilliant legend who was tied so closely to our culture, and who brought joy to millions of James Brown fans and b-boys and b-girls. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Stubblefield family in this tragic time.