Clyde Stubblefield, a session drummer best known for his work with James Brown, passed away on Saturday at the age of 73. According to Stubblefield’s wife, Jody Hannon, the drummer died of kidney failure at a Madison, Wis., hospital. He had been suffering from kidney disease for 10 years, and had been hospitalized for a few days.
Stubblefield was behind the drums on classic James Brown songs “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud),” “I Got The Feelin’” and “Funky Drummer.”
The grooves he laid down were influential and groundbreaking. They were later discovered by a legion of artists in the ’80s — including Run DMC, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, L.L. Cool J, George Michael, Sinead O’Connor, Boogie Down Productions —who sampled his funky beats and made Stubblefield .one of the most sampled drummers in history.
Unfortunately, Brown didn’t share royalties with Stubblefield. During the 1990s and 2000s, he released solo albums of his own — Revenge of the Funky Drummer” and The Original Funky Drummer Breakbeat Album. In 2011, the DVD release of the documentary Copyright Criminals featured a collection of new Stubblefield performances designed for easy sampling.
In 2000, Stubblefield was diagnosed with bladder cancer, which he survived. In the process, he racked up roughly $90,000 in medical bills. After Prince’s death in 2016, he revealed that the Purple One, who he had never met, privately paid his medical expenses, as a gift for his influence.
Roots drummer Questlove eulogized Stubblefield on Instagram, calling him “The Funky Funkiest Drummer Of All Time.”
R.I.P. to the ‘funky drummer’ – Clyde Stubblefield – from the entire PE family. pic.twitter.com/5eTF8DvM0v
— PUBLIC ENEMY (@PublicEnemyFTP) February 19, 2017
another funk legend passes… RIP the original “funky drummer” – possibly the most sampled musician on the planet – Clyde Stubblefield.
— Kirk Degiorgio (@KirkDegiorgio) February 18, 2017
RIP Clyde Stubblefield aka The Funky Drummer! He created one of the best Break Beats ever made https://t.co/tiRIqwrPEd
— Stanton Warriors (@StantonWarriors) February 18, 2017
he gave the drummer more than some…. Thank you for the breaks Clyde Stubblefield RIP https://t.co/WpfOdXqbTJ
— Gilles Peterson (@gillespeterson) February 18, 2017
The afterlife just got THAT much funkier with the passing of #ClydeStubblefield, James Brown’s… https://t.co/JEmMbLrziu
— Lenny Kravitz (@LennyKravitz) February 18, 2017