(Like it? Buy it)

Hello All,

Today I present a song that I’m sure the majority of you are familiar with in one form or another. I say that with confidence because as hip hop and other sample-based electronic music came prominently onto the scene over a decade after this track’s initial release, this extended vamp by James Brown and the JB Orchestra has gone on to be one of (if not) the most-sampled recordings in history.

However, if you’ve never actually listened to “Funky Drummer” in its entirety you certainly should, as it is a rhythmic expression of pure joy, and an exceptional one at that!

Recorded on November 20th, 1969 at King Studios in Cincinnati, Ohio, “Funky Drummer” was originally released as a two-part 45 in March of 1970. In the period between 1965 and 1975, Brown had 65 songs in the R&B top 40, and 44 of them reached up into the top 10. Over on the pop charts for those same years, Brown had 37 top 40 hits, 6 in the top 10 (Sisario, 2011). As “Funky Drummer” only reached No. 20 On the R&B charts, it was somewhat of a forgotten tune before being revived with its aforementioned prevalence as a sample. With this revival came its first album release, in its 9:13 full-on funk form with the 1986 compilation record, In the Jungle Groove.

In The Jungle Groove

James Brown introduced the world to his “funk-bag” when, incorporating second line feel and “The One Beat” into his R&B sensibilities, he “subordinated harmonic development and traditional pop song form to the increasingly dense rhythmic fabric of the groove” (Doleac, 2013). And groove it does!

(photo by Dan Quest Studio, 1969)

Every now and then a clear harmonic cry gave new suggestions

of a tune that would someday be the only tune in the world and

would raise men’s souls to joy.”

–      Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Part 3, Ch. 10

Can you not feel that joy?— as the band—flowing along with the little forward hops of “Sweet” Charles Sherrell’s bass and the ring-a-ding-licks of Jimmy Nolen’s guitar revolving within the slow-pour carnival of Brown’s organ while the intervals of Maceo Parker’s tenor saxophone sway out from the interlocked click-clack-grace of Stubblefield’s drums and the reliable swagger of the other horns (Eldee Williams, Fred Wesley, Joseph Davis, Richard Griffith)—all together perform a nimble side-step out from the gyral patterns of rhythm and finally succumb to James Brown’s insistence that they:

Turn Over

Turn Over

Turn Over

Soulful Rover

Take me in the change

Take me in the change

Take me in the change


They land right back in that loop, but it’s different. They make a deft somersault in place (nothing too flashy); one that surreptitiously takes the ground beneath their feet with them so that even though the whole world has turned, you might have missed it if it weren’t for that sudden swell of elation. James Brown once said of himself…although he wasn’t truly talking about himself at all:

“JAMES BROWN is a concept, a vibration, a dance. It’s not me, the man. JAMES BROWN is a freedom I created for humanity.”

JB drummer “Jabo” Starks has said, “So many things that were done weren’t written, because you just couldn’t. You couldn’t write that feel. Many, many times we’d just play off each other, until James would say, ‘That’s it!’” (Weinger & White, 1991). J.B.’s’ trombonist Fred Wesley would later say “The first rule when you went to work for James Brown: watch James Brown” (Weinger & White, 1991). This rule is demonstrated by the song’s most celebrated moment, which arrives roughly four and a half minutes into the recording and which supplies the tune with its namesake. James Brown tells the band: “Fellas, one more time I want to give the drummer some of this funky soul we got going here.” Brown then turns his attention to eighteen-year-old drummer Clyde Stubblefield, who modern drummer extraordinaire  Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson has called “the most effective drummer that James Brown has ever utilized” (Sisario, 2011). Ever in charge, always directing traffic, James Brown soulfully suggests: “You don’t have to do no soloing, brother, just keep what you got… Don’t turn it loose, ’cause it’s a mother.” And with that, break beat history will be made!

There is nothing demanding about this tune, there is no challenge put before you. You get the sense that they could do it all day and never get bored; somewhere, after the fade-out, the group is still vamping along. It’s easy. It’s all simply an invitation for you to strut your stuff, feel good and go for a stroll—and if this doesn’t help you stroll on over to the other-side of this frost-coated mid-week hump, then I don’t know what will.

As a bonus—for those interested in learning a bit more on how a 7th grade drop-out raised in a whorehouse in Augusta, Georgia went on to become Mr. Dynamite, then Soul Brother No. 1, before eventually being hailed as The Godfather of Soul—here’s Jeremy Marre’s excellent 2003 documentary for PBS’s American Masters series: James Brown: Soul Survivor.


                            –ENJOY YOURSELF–

———————BOBBY CALERO——————–


Brown, J. (1969). Funky Drummer, On In the Jungle Groove [CD]. Polydor/Umgd.

Kerouac, J. (1957). On The Road. New York: Penguin Books.

Mare, J. (Director). (2003). James Brown: Soul Survivor [Documentary]. United States:

Sisario, B. (2011, March 29). Questlove on Clyde Stubblefield. Crimes Against Music. Retrieved from http://charmicarmicat.blogspot.com/2011/03/questlove-on-clyde-stubblefield.html

Weinger, H. & White, C. (1991). James Brown: Are You Ready for Star Time?!?. Retrieved from http://www.jamesbrown.com/bio/default.aspx?aid=94

Doleac, B. (2013). Strictly Second Line: Funk, Jazz, and the New Orleans Beat. Ethnomusicology Review.Volume 18. Retirved from:http://ethnomusicologyreview.ucla.edu/journal/volume/18/piece/699


————            –                ——————- —  – –

Just some “Funky Drummer” samples:


“It’s a Demo” by Kool G Rap and DJ Polo

“Fool’s Gold” by The Stone Roses

“Rebel Without a Pause” by Public Enemy

“Bring the Noise” by Public Enemy

“South Bronx” by Boogie Down Productions

“The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince

“Fuck tha Police” (1988) by N.W.A[6]

“Run’s House” by Run-DMC

“Lyrics of Fury” by Eric B. & Rakim

“Sally” by Stetsasonic

“Self Destruction” by Stop the Violence Movement

“Fight the Power” by Public Enemy

“Spring Again” by Biz Markie

“The Rhythm” by Kwamé

“The Devil Made Me Do It” by Paris

“Mama Said Knock You Out” (1990) by LL Cool J

“Back by Dope Demand” by King Bee

“Jackin’ for Beats” by Ice Cube

“The Boomin’ System” by LL Cool J

“Let Your Backbone Slide” by Maestro Fresh Wes

“Untouchable” by Above the Law

“Murder Rap” by Above the Law

“The Originators” by Jaz

“Deep, Deep Trouble” by The Simpsons

“Funhouse” by Kid ‘N Play

“Psyko Funk” by Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E.

“Endangered Species (Tales from the Darkside) (Remix)” by Ice Cube

“O.G. Original Gangster” by Ice-T

“Sobb Story” by Leaders of the New School

“Let Me Ride” by Dr. Dre

“Trespass” by Ice-T and Ice Cube

“Hip Hop Hooray” by Naughty by Nature

“Where I’m From” by Digable Planets

“I Ain’t New Ta This” by Ice-T

“Neva Faded” by Lords of the Underground

“Extra, Extra!!” by Paula Perry

“Three MC’s and One DJ” by Beastie Boys

“The Next Movement” by The Roots

“1-9-9-9” by Common

“Scarlet Begonias” by Sublime

“Living Proof” (2011) by Bad Meets Evil[7][8]

“I am stretched on your grave” by Sinéad O’Connor

“Instrumental No. 2” by My Bloody Valentine[9]

“Everybody to the Limit” by Strong Bad[10]

“Radio Song (Tower of Luv Bug Mix)” by R.E.M. and KRS-One

“Get Down” by Nas

“The Morning” by Raekwon, Pusha T, Common, 2 Chainz, Cyhi Da Prynce, Kid Cudi, D’banj and Kanye West

“Premier’s X-Ecution” by The X-Ecutioners and DJ Premier

“Mathematics” by Mos Def

“Save Me” by Nicki Minaj

“2000 Beyond” by Slum Village and J Dilla

“The Cool” by Lupe Fiasco

“Heaven” by Emeli Sandé

“Popcorn” by Aphex Twin

The Powerpuff Girls theme by James L. Venable

“Rather Unique” by AZ

“She’s the One (Funky Drummer Remix)” by James Brown

“Tea Thyme” by Damu the Fudgemunk

“Lesson 4” by DJ Shadow

“The Battle” by DJ Skribble featuring DJ Slynke, Kenny Muhammad, and Rahzel

“Give the Drummer Some” by Ultramagnetic MCs

“Express Yourself” by Labrinth

“It’s My Beat” by Sweet Tee and DJ Jazzy Joyce

“Jump (Super Cat Mix)” by Kris Kross featuring Super Cat

“She Looks All Types A’ Good” by James Brown

“Fastest Man Alive” by Grandmaster Flash

“The Magic Number” by De La Soul

“Baby, You Nasty” by Lord Finesse and DJ Mike Smooth

“Kick the P.A.” by Korn and Dust Brothers

“Master Mix Medley” by DJ Jazzy Jeff

“Two Miles an Hour” by Ludacris

“It’s a Demo” by Kool G Rap and DJ Polo

“Beats to the Rhyme” by Run-D.M.C.

“Shouts” by J Dilla

“Go With the Flow” by Pete Rock & CL Smooth

“The Funky Drummer/Another Day” by A Skillz featuring Real Elements

“Officer” by The Pharcyde

“Killin’ Time Rhyme” by Damu the Fudgemunk

“Jump (Extended Dance Mix)” by Kris Kross

“Oodles of O’s” by De La Soul

“The Classy M.C.’s” by MC Quick Quintin and MC Mello J.

“Mortal Combat” by Big Daddy Kane

“Go Hard” by Lethal Bizzle featuring Donae’o

“Freedom! ’90” by George Michael

“Peaceful Journey” by Heavy D

“My Joy (Slow Slide Mix)” by Depeche Mode

“Piggy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now)” by Nine Inch Nails

“She Watch Channel Zero?!” by Public Enemy

“Do the James…” by Super Lover Cee and Casanova Rud

“Someday (New 12″ Jackswing)” by Mariah Carey

“G-Bop” by Kenny G

“What Cha Cha Prove” by Above the Law

“Separate/Together” by A Tribe Called Quest

“Carly’s Song” by Enigma

“Soul Flower” by Brand New Heavies featuring The Pharcyde

“Broken Record” by Katy B

“Get It” by Fort Minor featuring DJ Green Lantern and Styles of Beyond

“Baby Love Child” by Pizzicato Five


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s