Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Guitar CenterDrummer Clyde Stubblefield, who played with James Brown from 1965 to 1971 and created the beats featured on many of the Godfather of Soul’s most famous songs, died on Saturday, February 20, at the age of 73 in Madison, Wisconsin. Rolling Stone reports that his cause of death was kidney failure, according to his wife, Jody Bannon.
Stubblefield is featured on such well-known Brown songs as “Cold Sweat,” “I Got the Feelin'” and “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud,” but he’ll probably be best remembered for his drum break on the 1970 single “Funky Drummer,” which has been sampled for more than 1,000 songs. Among the many tracks featuring a sample of the break are Public Enemy‘s “Fight the Power” and “Bring the Noise” LL Cool J‘s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” Dr. Dre‘s “Let Me Ride,” Beastie Boys’ “Shadrach” and N.W.A.‘s “F*** tha Police,” as well as such pop songs as George Michael‘s “Freedom ’90” and Ed Sheeran‘s “Shirtsleeves.”
Stubblefield toured with Otis Redding before joining Brown’s band. During his tenure with James, he was teamed with fellow drummer John “Jabo” Starks in a powerhouse tandem that created some of the rhythms that defined the funk genre.
Clyde maintained that although he created the drum parts featured on the Brown songs on which he played, Brown didn’t give him writing on any credit for them, so he didn’t see any royalties from the many artists that sampled the tunes.
After leaving Brown’s band in 1971, Clyde went to record several solo albums, and also formed a duo with Starks called The Funkmasters, which put out two records and released an instructional video.
Stubblefield struggled with a number a serious health issues in his later years, and in April 2016 he revealed to Billboard that the late Prince had paid $90,000 worth of his medical bills he amassed while he battled cancer.
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