Apr 7, 2017

Funky see, funky do: the story behind the most sampled drummer break in history

The complicated legacy of a modestly remunerated session musician who changed pop music forever.

Charlie Lewis — Journalist

Charlie Lewis


Clyde Stubbefield

In a different world, Funky Drummer might have been largely indistinguishable from any number of breezy, extended summer jams churned out by James Brown and his band, the JBs, during the late 1960s and early 1970s. A delight for connoisseurs, a pleasure for casual fans, and, at the very least, filled with the largely incomprehensible instructions to his band that make up everyone else's James Brown impression. I say largely, because there is one particularly distinct piece of commentary at around five minutes in:

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5 thoughts on “Funky see, funky do: the story behind the most sampled drummer break in history

  1. Kapo

    Another example of a screwed over musician. Unsurprisingly only an Artist who fought for artists’ rights pitched in to help Clyde when he most needed it.

  2. John Reidy

    In one sense that break is completely unremarkable, it is just drumming as we know it, a bit like how Shakespeare is full of cliches, and dramatic devices we have seen before many times.

    Thanks for the article.

  3. Jack Robertson

    Another reminder of just how much unheralded musical workmanship sits behind musical superstardom, how the workaday choices and graft of the unsung can be the difference b/w someone else’s smash hit career and obscurity. Some of the best music films of recent years have started to get at this: Love and Mercy, 30 feet from stardom, the always brilliant Classic Albums series…

    Great article, more of this from this writer, please!

  4. Jack Robertson

    Worth adding the resurgence of mid-tempo Britpop guitar music and boy/girl group ballads in the nineties to that long list of hugely commercial genres grounded in Stubblefield’s hands-in-pockets shuffle-along, too…where would Spice Girls/Robbie Williams/Coldplay et al be without it…

    1. Jack Robertson

      White English middle classers skinning black American musos for squillons? Who’d have ever thunk it…?!

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