Funky Drummer

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"Funky Drummer (Part 1)"
Single by James Brown
from the album In the Jungle Groove
B-side"Funky Drummer (Part 2)"
ReleasedMarch 1970 (1970-03)
RecordedNovember 20, 1969, King Studios, Cincinnati, OH
  • 2:36 (Part 1)
  • 2:55 (Part 2)
Songwriter(s)James Brown
Producer(s)James Brown
James Brown charting singles chronology
"It's a New Day (Part 1) & (Part 2)"
"Funky Drummer (Part 1)"
"Brother Rapp (Part 1) & (Part 2)"
Audio sample
External video
video icon Drummerworld – Stubblefield breakdown of "Cold Sweat" and "Funky Drummer".

"Funky Drummer" is a single released by James Brown in 1970. Its drum break, improvised by Clyde Stubblefield, is one of the most frequently sampled music recordings.

Recording and composition[edit]

"Funky Drummer" was recorded on November 20, 1969 in Cincinnati, Ohio. It takes the form of an extended vamp, with individual instruments (mostly the guitar, tenor saxophones and organ) improvising brief licks on top. Brown's ad-libbed vocals are sporadic and declamatory, and are mostly concerned with encouraging the other band members. The song is played in the key of D minor, though the first verse is in C major.

As in the full-length version of "Cold Sweat", Brown announces the upcoming drum break, which comes late in the recording, with a request to "give the drummer some." He tells Stubblefield "You don't have to do no soloing, brother, just keep what you got... Don't turn it loose, 'cause it's a mother." Stubblefield's eight-bar unaccompanied "solo", a version of the riff he plays through most of the piece, is the result of Brown's directions; this break beat is one of the most sampled recordings in music.

After the drum break, the band returns to the original vamp.[1] Brown, apparently impressed with what Stubblefield has produced, seems to name the song on the spot as it continues, and repeats it: "The name of this tune is 'The Funky Drummer', 'The Funky Drummer', 'The Funky Drummer'." The recording ends with a reprise of Stubblefield's solo and a fade-out.


"Funky Drummer" was originally released by King Records as a two-part 45 rpm single in March 1970. The difference between the album version and the single version is that the single version contains Brown's vocal percussion ('kooncha'). Despite rising to No. 20 on the R&B chart and No. 51 on the pop chart,[2] it did not receive an album release until the 1986 compilation In the Jungle Groove.

More than one mix of "Funky Drummer" was made around the time it was recorded, including one with tambourine and another with vocal percussion by Brown and trombonist Fred Wesley; the most commonly heard version of the track lacks these elements, which were apparently overdubbed. In addition to the original version of "Funky Drummer", the album In the Jungle Groove includes a "bonus beat reprise" of the piece. This track, edited by Danny Krivit, consists of a 3-minute loop of the drum break, punctuated only by Brown's sampled vocal interjections and an occasional guitar chord and tambourine hit.


"Funky Drummer" is one of the most widely sampled pieces of music.[3] In 1986, the tracks "South Bronx", "Eric B. is President" and "It's a Demo" sampled Stubblefield's drum break, helping popularize sampling.[4] The drum break was sampled by hip hop acts including Public Enemy, N.W.A, LL Cool J, Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys, and later pop musicians such as Ed Sheeran and George Michael.[5]

As Stubblefield did not receive a songwriter credit for "Funky Drummer", he received no royalties for the sampling.[5] He told the New York Times in 2011: "It didn't bug me or disturb me, but I think it's disrespectful not to pay people for what they use."[6] Stubblefield capitalized on the name with his 1997 album Revenge of the Funky Drummer.[7]


with the James Brown Orchestra

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1970) Peak
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[9] 41
US Billboard Hot 100 51
US Billboard R&B 20
US Cash Box Top 100[10] 37

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Collins, Sam. "Funky Drummer". Iomusic News. Archived from the original on 2008-01-16. Retrieved 2008-11-30.
  2. ^ White, Cliff (1991). "Discography". In Star Time (pp. 54–59) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.
  3. ^ Gordon, Jason (2006-12-26). "James Brown: Most Sampled Man in the Biz". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 5 February 2020. Retrieved 2020-02-05.
  4. ^ "Untangling the knotty world of hip-hop copyright". FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music. 2016-06-25. Archived from the original on 14 October 2018. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  5. ^ a b Kreps, Daniel (2017-02-18). "Clyde Stubblefield, James Brown's 'Funky Drummer,' Dead at 73". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2020-08-01.
  6. ^ Sisario, Ben (2011-03-29). "Living Legend Tries to Make a Living". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-08-01.
  7. ^ James Brown, Clyde Stubblefield and the Madison Area Music Awards. (2007, January 4). Isthmus. Retrieved February 13, 2007.
  8. ^ Leeds, Alan, and Harry Weinger (1991). "Star Time: Song by Song". In Star Time (pp. 46–53) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.
  9. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 3796." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  10. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 for the Week Ending April 18, 1970". Cash Box. Retrieved 18 August 2018.

External links[edit]