Funky Drummer

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"Funky Drummer (Part 1)"
FunkyDrummer2.jpg
Single by James Brown
from the album In the Jungle Groove
B-side "Funky Drummer (Part 2)"
Released March 1970 (1970-03)
Format 7"
Recorded November 20, 1969, King Studios, Cincinnati, OH
Genre Funk
Length
  • 2:36 (Part 1)
  • 2:55 (Part 2)
Label King
6290
Songwriter(s) James Brown
Producer(s) James Brown
James Brown charting singles chronology
"It's a New Day (Part 1) & (Part 2)"
(1970)
"Funky Drummer (Part 1)"
(1970)
"Brother Rapp (Part 1) & (Part 2)"
(1970)
Audio sample
External video
Drummerworld – Stubblefield breakdown of "Cold Sweat" and "Funky Drummer".

"Funky Drummer" is a jam session recorded by James Brown and his band in 1969. The recording's drum break, a propulsive beat improvised by Clyde Stubblefield, is one of the most frequently sampled rhythmic breaks[1] in hip hop and popular music.

Track recording[edit]

"Funky Drummer" was recorded on November 20, 1969 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and 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 #20 on the R&B chart and #51 on the pop chart,[2] it did not receive an album release until the 1986 compilation In the Jungle Groove.

The piece 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 on "Funky Drummer" 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.[3] 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.

"The Funky Drummer" is also sometimes used as a nickname for Stubblefield himself, who capitalized on the name with his 1997 album Revenge of the Funky Drummer. As a session drummer, Stubblefield received no further compensation for the many samples that were taken from the recording.[4]

Versions[edit]

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.

Released versions[edit]

  • Part 1 – 2:35
  • Part 2 – 2:55
  • Parts 1 & 2 (first appeared on Foundations of Funk – A Brand New Bag: 1965–1969) – 5:34
  • Full version (appears on In the Jungle Groove) – 9:13
  • Tambourine Mix (appears on Soul Pride: The Instrumentals – 1960–1969) – 9:13
  • Bonus Beat Reprise (appears on In the Jungle Groove) – 2:56

Personnel[edit]

with the James Brown Orchestra:

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1970) Peak
position
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[6] 41
US Billboard Hot 100 51
US Billboard R&B 20
US Cash Box Top 100[7] 37

Influence[edit]

The rhythm pattern on "Funky Drummer" is cited as one of the world's top most sampled drum segments and has backed hip hop songs for 30 years. Rediscovered by Hank Shocklee of The Bombsquad while they were creating mixes for Public Enemy in the early 1980s, it has since been used by hip-hop groups and rappers including Run-D.M.C., N.W.A, LL Cool J, and Boogie Down Productions. Starting with Bell Biv DeVoe's "Poison," new jack swing artists have sampled a snare unit on loop.[8] As of 2018, the drum break has been sampled in more than 1,400 other songs.[9]

Rappers who sample the recording have included references to Brown, Stubblefield, and the song's title in their lyrics, two examples being LL Cool J in "Boomin' System" ("The girlies, they smile, they see me comin, I'm steady hummin, I got the Funky Drummer drummin") and Public Enemy in "Fight the Power" ("1989 – the number, another summer / Sound of the Funky Drummer...").

The "Funky Drummer" beat has been so widely used that it has become something of a musical cliché, and performers sometimes refer to it sarcastically. MC Frontalot's song "Good Old Clyde" comments on the widespread appropriation of the "Funky Drummer" beat (while exploiting the beat itself).[10][11] Pop Will Eat Itself's song "Not Now, James, We're Busy" samples Brown's vocal asides from "Funky Drummer" as well as the drum break, weaving them into a commentary on Brown's legal troubles.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kun, Josh: "What Is an MC If He Can't Rap to Banda? Making Music in Nuevo L.A." American Quarterly (American Studies Assn) (Baltimore, MD) (56:3) Sep 2004, 741-758. (2004)
  2. ^ White, Cliff (1991). "Discography". In Star Time (pp. 54–59) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.
  3. ^ Collins, Sam. "Funky Drummer". Iomusic News. Archived from the original on 2008-01-16. Retrieved 2008-11-30. 
  4. ^ James Brown, Clyde Stubblefield and the Madison Area Music Awards. (2007, January 4). Isthmus. Retrieved February 13, 2007.
  5. ^ Leeds, Alan, and Harry Weinger (1991). "Star Time: Song by Song". In Star Time (pp. 46–53) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.
  6. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 3796." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  7. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 for the Week Ending April 18, 1970". tropicalglen.com. Cash Box. Retrieved 18 August 2018. 
  8. ^ Dana Scott (February 25, 2017). "Chuck D Reflects on Clyde Stubblefield's Impact as Hip Hop's Most Sampled Drummer". hiphopdx.com. Archived from the original on March 8, 2017. Retrieved February 27, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Samples of Funky Drummer by James Brown on WhoSampled". WhoSampled. Retrieved 2018-05-11. 
  10. ^ MC Frontalot :: Lyric :: Good Old Clyde Archived 2007-01-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Justin A. Williams (2015). The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop. Cambridge Companions to Music. Cambridge University Press. p. 229. ISBN 9781107037465. Retrieved April 5, 2015. 

External links[edit]