Funky Drummer

Album: In the Jungle Groove (1969)
Charted: 51

Songfacts®:

  • When rappers went looking for samples, they often dug through their James Brown records looking for clean beats known as "breaks." This song has a very nice drum break that James telegraphs early in the song, letting the drummer know that its coming. He even tells the drummer not to solo in order to preserve the groove, something anyone looking to boost a beat will appreciate. Later in the song, James announces that the song is called "The Funky Drummer." The break became possibly the most sampled of all time - a few of the songs that use it are "Let Me Ride" by Dr. Dre, "We Got Our Own Thang" by Heavy D and "Jump" by Kris Kross.
  • The drummer who performed on this track is Clyde Stubblefield, who in 1997 released an album called Revenge of the Funky Drummer. Brown was notoriously tough on his drummers, but he did a great deal to raise their profiles when he would say, "Give the drummer some!" on stage. In addition to Stubblefield, Brown often used John "Jabo" Starks and Melvin Parker. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • "I hate that song," Clyde Stubblefield declares in the film Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown. "'The Funky Drummer'... ugh. We had been playing somewhere the night before, and as we get to Cincinnati, going to check into the hotel and go to bed, Brown says, 'Go take 'em to the studio.' We all were so tired. He wanted to record, so I started playing just the drum pattern. Brown liked it, and we recorded it. It became our 'Funky Drummer.'"

    This session took place on November 20, 1969 at King Studios in Cincinnati.
  • Running over 7-minutes long, this was not a big hit for Brown, but it was an integral part of his stage show. The single had to be divided into two parts because the whole thing wouldn't fit on one side of the 45.
  • According to the funky drummer - Clyde Stubblefield - he came up with his own drum patterns on this and the other songs he played on. Since he was not credited as a songwriter, he didn't receive royalties when his drumming was sampled. Stubblefield died in 2017 at age 73.
  • Public Enemy put this song to use, sampling it on "Bring The Noise," "Rebel Without a Pause" and "Fight The Power," which opens with the lines:

    1989 the number another summer
    Sound of the Funky Drummer
  • One of the more interesting variations on this sample came from Sinead O'Connor, who sang over a loop of the drums for her song "I Am Stretched On Your Grave."
  • Among the many music professionals who put this on the Mount Rushmore of drum performances is Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz, who told Songfacts what makes it so impressive: "It's highly syncopated, and there's more than one syncopation going on. It's like the layers of an onion: You have one layer of syncopation and then you have another and possibly even another on top of that. It's what we call polyrhythmic, and it's very sexy, very good for dancing."

    Frantz says he tried to approximate it on the Talking Heads songs "The Great Curve" and "Crosseyed And Painless."

Comments: 1

  • Jack The Hat from City In The Clouds, United KingdomRock aswell as hip hop can learn a lesson from James Browns groovy fun formula
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