Benny Benjamin

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Benny Benjamin
Benny Benjamin.jpg
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Benjamin Jr.
Also known asPapa Zita
Born(1925-07-15)July 15, 1925
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
DiedApril 20, 1969(1969-04-20) (aged 43)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
GenresR&B, jazz
Years active1940s–1968
Associated actsThe Funk Brothers

William "Benny" Benjamin (July 15, 1925[1][2] – April 20, 1969), nicknamed Papa Zita,[3] was an American musician, most notable as the primary drummer for the Motown studio band known as The Funk Brothers.[4] He was a native of Birmingham, Alabama.[5]

Benjamin originally learned to play drums in the style of the big band jazz groups in the 1940s.[4][5] In 1958, Benjamin was Motown's first studio drummer, where he was noted for his dynamic style. Several Motown record producers, including Berry Gordy, refused to work on any recording sessions unless Benjamin was the drummer[3] and James Jamerson was the bassist. The Beatles singled out Benjamin's drumming style upon meeting Gordy in the UK.[4][6] Among the Motown songs Benjamin performed the drum tracks for are early hits such as "Money (That's What I Want)" by Barrett Strong, "Shop Around" by The Miracles and "Do You Love Me" by The Contours; as well as later hits such as "Get Ready" and "My Girl" by The Temptations, "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" by Stevie Wonder, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Gladys Knight & the Pips, and "Going to a Go-Go" by The Miracles.

Benjamin was influenced by the work of drummers Buddy Rich and Tito Puente. He recorded with a studio set composed of Ludwig, Slingerland, Rogers and Gretsch components and probably Zildjian cymbals.[5]

By the late 1960s, Benjamin struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, and fellow Funk Brothers Uriel Jones and Richard "Pistol" Allen increasingly recorded more of the drum tracks for the studio's releases.[4][5] Benjamin died on April 20, 1969, of a stroke at age 43.[7]

Benjamin was inducted into the "Sidemen" category of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.[8] He was named the eleventh best drummer of all time by the Rolling Stone magazine in 2016.[6]


  1. ^ U.S. Social Security Death Index, 377-20-0866
  2. ^ William Benjamin Jr., Applications for Headstones, 1/1/1925 - 6/30/1970; NAID: NAID 596118; Record Group Number: 92; Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General
  3. ^ a b Abbo, Andrea (June 19, 2020). "Benny Benjamin, an outstanding drummer". Zero to Drum. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d "Benny Benjamin". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. 2003. Archived from the original on March 20, 2019. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d "The Funk Brothers". Standing in the Shadows of Motown. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Weingarten, Christopher; Dolan, Jon; Diehl, Matt; Micallef, Ken; Ma, David; Smith, Gareth; Wang, Oliver; Heller, Jason; Runtagh, Jordan (March 31, 2016). "100 Greatest Drummers of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  7. ^ Sisario, Ben (March 25, 2009). "Uriel Jones, a Motown Drummer, Dies at 74". The New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  8. ^ "Benny Benjamin". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on December 6, 2019. Retrieved April 20, 2021.

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