Clyde Stubblefield: Honoring the Legendary Funky Drummer’s Impact on Music

Clyde Stubblefield, born 1943, became a legendary drummer known for his work with James Brown and influential 'Funky Drummer' break, heavily sampled in various music genres.

Life and Legacy of Clyde Stubblefield

Early Life in Chattanooga

Clyde Stubblefield was born on April 18, 1943, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

He was inspired to start drumming after seeing a marching band and eventually became one of the most renowned drummers in the history of music.

The James Brown Era

Stubblefield is best known for his work with the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, with whom he recorded and toured for six years (1965-1970).

His syncopated drum patterns became funk standards and his break in the 1970 track “Funky Drummer” was heavily used in hip hop music.

Solo Career and Influence

After parting ways with James Brown, Stubblefield embarked on a solo career, which included releasing an instructional video on drumming.

He became known as one of the most sampled musicians of all time, with his playing style inspiring countless musicians across various genres.

Stubblefield continued to perform into his later years, solidifying his place in musical history.

Health Challenges and Passing

Unfortunately, Stubblefield faced several health issues throughout his life.

He battled cancer and eventually suffered from kidney failure.

He was hospitalized for these health issues and ultimately passed away on February 18, 2017, at the age of 73.

Musical Impact and Recognition

Despite his health challenges, Stubblefield’s influence on the music industry cannot be understated.

He was often referred to as the “southern gentleman” due to his humble and kind demeanor.

In recognition of his talent, he was named as one of the 100 greatest drummers of all time by Rolling Stone.

His legacy lives on through the countless musicians inspired by his work and iconic drum patterns.

The Influence of ‘Funky Drummer’

A drum set sits center stage, with drumsticks poised in mid-air, as the room reverberates with the iconic beats of 'Funky Drummer.'

The Birth of a Legendary Beat

Clyde Stubblefield, also known as the Funky Drummer, laid the foundation for funk music with his breakbeat in James Brown’s “Funky Drummer.” His rhythms were unique and inspired future generations of music-makers.

Stubblefield’s drum patterns, especially on James Brown’s tracks like “Cold Sweat” and “Sex Machine,” are considered funk standards today.

Sampled Across Genres

Clyde’s beat from “Funky Drummer” has been sampled in numerous songs and genres, including hip-hop, pop, and rock.

Famous artists like George Michael, Prince, LL Cool J, Dr. Dre, Run-D.M.C, Beastie Boys, and Ed Sheeran have used his breakbeat in their hits.

Some well-known tracks that have sampled his beat are “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J, “Let Me Ride” by Dr. Dre, and “Run’s House” by Run-D.M.C.

Legal Battles for Royalties

Despite his widely sampled drum breaks, Clyde Stubblefield faced significant challenges in receiving royalties for his work.

He did not have songwriting credits for “Funky Drummer,” and copyright laws at the time did not adequately protect artists from unauthorized use of their music.

This led Stubblefield to engage in legal battles for the money he rightfully deserved.

The 2009 documentary “Copyright Criminals” sheds light on his struggle over copyright infringement and sampling in the music industry.

Legacy in Hip-Hop and Beyond

The influence and impact of Clyde Stubblefield’s drumming can be felt in hip-hop tracks and mainstream music alike.

His contribution to the foundation of funk music and the hip-hop genre is undeniable.

Collaborating with legends like Otis Redding, Bootsy Collins, and Fred Wesley, Stubblefield left a lasting imprint on the music world.

He is deeply admired by contemporary artists like Questlove from The Roots, who have hailed him as the “godfather of soul.”

Clyde Stubblefield passed away in 2017 due to kidney disease, but his legacy lives on through his music and Foundation of Funk project.

He will forever be remembered for his drum patterns, funky sound, and the rhythm that gave birth to some of the most significant tracks in music history.