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The Funky Drummer Departs

Clydestubblefield350x350If you're from the Mad City, you know the name Clyde Stubblefield. The "Funky Drummer" behind some of James Brown's biggest hits (like "Cold Sweat") moved to Madison after leaving the band in 1970 and, for over four decades, played with a potpourri of local talent and international trend-setters. Indeed, his Funky Monday jams were a local institution. In 2014, LA Weekly named Clyde as the second best drummer of all time, behind John Bonham.

He could have lived anywhere. He chose to live in Madison.

There is a certain justice in the fact that Rolling Stone, USA Today and the rest of the world media noted his passing last weekend. He would have smiled that smile...but the pain would remain.

As many artists in the early rock era, Clyde never got credit for his contributions to some of the biggest songs of a decade. Thus, he only was paid for his studio time, while laying down tracks that made millions. And, then, to add insult to injury, he became the most sampled drummer of all time by artists as diverse as Public Enemy, Sinead O'Connor, N.W.A, Prince and scores more.

Indeed, almost none of them felt the need to compensate Clyde for his art. Except Prince, who quietly paid all of Clyde's medical bills a few years ago as he fought through bladder cancer.

In a great Facebook eulogy, my friend Phil Lyons spoke fondly of the gigs he played with Clyde, how the Funky Drummer had mentored him as a young bass player and then, there was this:

"And of course (there were) many shitty gigs in rural Wisco at supper clubs and honky tonks. When people would request 'Wipeout,' Clyde would say 'bring me a triple vodka and 50 bucks and you MIGHT hear 'Wipeout!'"

Too funny...and so Clyde.

And, then...there was that iridescent smile. Through all of the pain...there was always that smile.

On this Funky Music Friday, we share with you the Funky One himself with "Funk Thing."

And, that band in Heaven just got a whole lot funkier...

And, if you're in or near the Mad City this evening the Madison Concourse Hotel is hosting a celebration of Stubblefield's life in its Capital Ballroom from 5-8 p.m. Next Monday, the Clyde Stubblefield All-Stars will play a benefit performance at the High Noon Saloon to assist his wife with funeral expenses.


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Bill Geist

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