Clyde Stubblefield, “World’s Most Sampled Drummer,” Tries to Make a Living

978-0-8223-4875-7_pr You  may not know Clyde Stubblefield's name, but you've probably heard his drumming. In fact, you've probably heard it on many, many songs. Stubblefield was a session drummer for James Brown in the 1960s, and his work on two songs in particular, "Funky Drummer" and "Cold Sweat," have been sampled by dozens of hip-hop artists. But Stubblefield hasn't seen a penny for all those times other musicians have used his creation. Kembrew McLeod and Peter DiCola write about his experience in their new book Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling. "Even though Stubblefield may have come up with the famous rhythms he played, the combination of copyright law, contractual arrangements, informal agreements, and traditional industry practices meante that he received no copyright and thus no royalties," they write. But now Stubblefield finally hopes to make some money off his music. He has recorded a set of ready-to-sample beats that other artists can license from him—for a share of the profits and proper credit. The recording will be included in a special "Funky Drummer Edition" of the DVD of a documentary, Copyright Criminals, that McLeod made with Benjamin Franzen. An excellent companion to the book, the documentary examines the history and influence of sampling and the copyright laws surrounding it. To publicize the release of the DVD, Stubblefield will appear tonight on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon with Public Enemy's Chuck D and Questlove of The Roots, and he and McLeod were both interviewed by the New York Times. McLeod thinks Stubblefield's sample collection is special: "This differs from buying a sample pack for GarageBand," he said told the Times's Ben Sisario, "because you know that what you are listening to and what you are sampling is the genius labor of this incredible musician. It’s Clyde Stubblefield." Read the section about Stubblefield in Creative License on our Tumblr.


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