In just a few minutes of hitting out a rhythm, Clyde Stubblefield became a legend of recorded sound. James Brown's drummer from 1965 to 1970 was present on several iconic singles by the Godfather of Soul, from "Cold Sweat" and "I Got the Feelin'" to "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud." But none of those may eclipse "Funky Drummer," a groove recorded in the studio on Nov. 20, 1969 and released as a single the following March.
An eight-bar solo break by Stubblefield on that track became holy ground for hip-hop DJs and samplers, who looped that track on more than 1,000 separate songs. The drummer received no royalties for his work - and were it not for the work of musicologists and hip-hop fans, his name might not be as known as it is today. (The drummer, who died in 2017, once told The New York Times that "It didn’t bug me or disturb me, but I think it’s disrespectful not to pay people for what they use.")
Not long after it was featured twice on the double vinyl compilation In the Jungle Groove in 1986 (both in its nine-minute original and in a "bonus beat" version that emphasized the break), samples of "Funky Drummer" skyrocketed. Here's seven of our favorites - one for every decade Stubblefield lived to see.
Public Enemy, "Bring tha Noise" (1988)
Run-DMC, "Run's House" (1988)
N.W.A., "Fuck tha Police" (1988)
Public Enemy, "Fight the Power" (1989)
LL Cool J, "Mama Said Knock You Out" (1990)
Prince and The New Power Generation, "Gangster Glam" (1991)
Nicki Minaj, "Save Me" (2010)