Clyde Stubblefield, James Brown’s one-time drummer and the creator of one of hip-hop’s most popular samples, has died at the age of 73. Stubblefield’s wife, Jody Hannon, confirmed the drummer’s death to Rolling Stone. The cause of death was kidney failure
“The Funky Funkiest Drummer Of All Time,” Questlove wrote on Saturday. “Clyde Stubblefield thank you for everything you’ve taught me. The spirit of the greatest grace note left hand snare drummer will live on thru all of us.”
Stubblefield, while a member of Brown’s backing unit, performed on the funk legend’s classic cuts like “Cold Sweat,” “Ain’t It Funky Now,” “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” “I Got the Feelin'” and Brown’s landmark LP Cold Sweat and Sex Machine.
However, it’s a 20-second drum break, a snippet of a Stubblefield solo found on Brown’s 1970 single for “Funky Drummer,” that marked the drummer’s biggest impact on music.
The drum break served as the backbeat for countless hip-hop tracks, ranging from Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” “Bring the Noise” and “Rebel Without a Cause” to N.W.A’s “Fuck tha Police” and Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride,” LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” and Run-D.M.C.’s “Run’s House” to Beastie Boys’ “Shadrach.” Even Ed Sheeran’s “Shirtsleeves” and George Michael’s “Freedom ’90” were among the over a thousand songs to sample Stubblefield’s beat.
“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. Started playing something,” Stubblefield said of creating the famous drum break. “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.'”
Stubblefield was not listed as a songwriter on the track and therefore didn’t see much royalties from the decades of sampling.
“All the drum patterns I played with Brown was my own, he never told me how to play or what to play,” Stubblefield told SF Weekly in 2012. “I just played my own patterns, and the hip-hoppers and whatever, the people that used the material probably payed him, maybe. But we got nothing. I got none of it. It was all my drum product.”
Stubblefield added in a 2011 New York Times interview, “People use my drum patterns on a lot of these songs. 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.”
In recent years, Stubblefield dealt with numerous health issues: In 2002, he had a kidney removed, and he suffered from end-stage renal disease of the last decade.
While Stubblefield did not have health insurance, in April 2016, Stubblefield revealed that Prince was secretly paid the $ 90,000 in medical bills the drummer accumulated while undergoing chemotherapy for bladder cancer. Prince considered Stubblefield one of his “drumming idols,” Stubblefield told Billboard following Prince’s death.
“We lost another Pillar Stone that held up the Foundation of Funk,” Bootsy Collins, who performed along Stubblefield on Sex Machine, wrote on Facebook Saturday. “Mr. Clyde Stubblefield has left our frequency. I am lost for words & Rythme right now. Dang Clyde! U taught me so much as I stood their watchin’ over u & Jabo while keepin’ one eye on the Godfather. We all loved U so much.”
This story is developing…