Clyde Stubblefield, the “Funky Drummer,” on Playing With James Brown and Getting Sampled By Hip-Hop Greats

There's a special show going down at Mezzanine this Saturday, Nov. 3, for the opening of S.F. Funk Fest: It's a mini-reunion of sorts for the musicians who used to play with soul godfather James Brown. Headlining is Fred Wesley, legendary trombonist, and joining him onstage will be drummers Jabo Starks and Clyde Stubblefield.

While they're all fantastic musicians, Stubblefield, 69, is especially interesting: As Brown's drummer from 1965 to 1971, he played on many of Brown's biggest hits, including “Cold Sweat,” “Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud,” and “Ain't It Funky Now.” But his largest contribution to musical culture arguably came with the Brown song “Funky Drummer,” where, about five and a half minutes in, Stubblefield played a short, minimal, and hugely funky drum solo. Those 20 seconds became what's likely the most sampled piece of music in history, appearing on an almost countless number of early hip-hop records, including Public Enemy's “Bring the Noise” and “Fight the Power,” and many other songs by the likes of the Beastie Boys, Run D.M.C., and more. But because Stubblefield didn't any songwriting credit for the song — and due to the early copyright looseness around sampling in hip-hop — the funky drummer didn't see much in the way of royalties from his classic beat.

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