James Brown’s ‘Funky Drummer’ Clyde Stubblefield dies at 73

James Brown’s ‘Funky Drummer’ Clyde Stubblefield dies at 73

Clyde Stubblefield, a James Brown drummer who created one of the most widely sampled drum breaks ever, has died. He was 73.

His wife, Jody Hannon, says Stubblefield died of kidney failure at UW Hospital in Madison Saturday. She says he had been suffering from kidney disease for 10 years, and had been hospitalized for a few days.

Stubblefield performed on several of Brown’s classics, but was best known for a short break on Brown’s 1970 single, “Funky Drummer.” Rolling Stone says it was sampled on over 1,000 songs and served as the backbeat for countless hip-hop tracks, including Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”

Hannon says Stubblefield never saw many royalties and never expected them.

Stubblefield was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but had lived in Madison for 25 years.

Former bandmate Harris Lemberg remembered Stubblefield as a talented, one-of-a-kind individual in a phone interview with News 3 Saturday.

“He had a huge heart and a passion for life, a passion for everything he did,” Lemberg said. “It was just a wonder to behold.”

Stubblefield’s nephew Bret said the late musician had a lasting impact on him.

“Uncle Clyde had bought a drum set back in the day and he had come out and he had showed me a couple beats, how to play drums and then he basically cut me loose,” Bret said.

But music wasn’t the only important thing to the Stubblefields.

“He enjoyed his music, he enjoyed his family, he enjoyed the people around him, he enjoyed life, he embraced it. What Clyde Stubblefield wanted, Clyde Stubblefield got,” Bret said. “He embraced every day. He loved to live.”

Rick Tvedt of the Madison Area Music Association said Stubblefield would be the first person to say that people call him a legend but he doesn’t know why.

“Most of it went unrecognized, unfortunately,” Tvedt said.

News 3 spotlighted Stubblefield in 2015 and spoke with local musicians who were influenced by him. Stubblefield also spoke on Prince’s death , telling News 3 he received $80,000 from the late singer when he was being treated for bladder cancer.