Year
1969

“Funky Drummer” is recorded

Hip hop was born when DJs began rapping over dance records, and no dance records were better suited to rapping than those that included a “breakbeat”—a drum break that could be repeated almost endlessly as an accompaniment to rapping. It is impossible to know who first employed “The Funky Drummer” in this fashion, but it was so heavily entrenched in hip-hop’s DNA by 1989 that Public Enemy’s Chuck D. could call it out by name in “Fight The Power” as shorthand for hip-hop itself: “1989! The number, another summer/Sound of ‘The Funky Drummer.’

“Funky Drummer” wasn’t so much a song as it was an extended groove. Like many of the James Brown records on which Clyde Stubblefield played, “Funky Drummer” had its beginnings in an ad-libbed jam before a planned recording session—a jam that the Godfather of Soul walked in on and declared ready to record. Instead of “lyrics,” “Funky Drummer” features James Brown sitting back and letting the groove hold center stage while interjecting the occasional bit of shouted encouragement to one of his individual band members. When he gets to Stubblefield, Brown lets it be known that he doesn’t want a fancy solo, but more of the incredibly funky underlying beat: “”Don’t turn it loose,” he can be heard saying, “’cause it’s a mother.”

The eight bars of drumming that followed on this day in 1969 went on to become the mother of all breakbeats.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

American vessel sunk by sperm whale

The American whaler Essex, which hailed from Nantucket, Massachusetts, is attacked by an 80-ton sperm whale 2,000 miles from the western coast of South America. The 238-ton Essex was in pursuit of sperm whales, specifically the precious oil and bone that could be derived from ...read more

Nuremberg trials begin

Twenty-four high-ranking Nazis go on trial in Nuremberg, Germany, for atrocities committed during World War II. The Nuremberg Trials were conducted by an international tribunal made up of representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and Great Britain. It was ...read more

Nuremberg war-crimes trials begin

On this day in 1945, a series of trials of accused Nazi war criminals, conducted by a U.S., French, and Soviet military tribunal based in Nuremberg, Germany, begins. Twenty-four former Nazi officials were tried, and when it was all over, one year later, half would be sentenced to ...read more

Cal beats Stanford as band blocks field

On November 20, 1982, the Cal football team wins an improbable last-second victory over Stanford when they complete five lateral passes around members of the Cardinals’ marching band, who had wandered onto the field a bit early to celebrate the upset they were sure their team had ...read more

Explosions rock West Virginia coal mine

Methane gas explosions in a West Virginia coal mine kill 78 men on this day in 1968. The damage to the mine was so extensive that it had to be sealed with the bodies of the men still inside. The Consol No. 9 mine was located about 10 miles from the town of Monongah, between ...read more

Trials open at Nuremberg

The International Military Tribunal for the Prosecution of Major War Criminals of the European Axis begins trying German war criminals at Nuremberg, Germany, on this day in 1945. Following Germany’s defeat in World War II, Winston Churchill planned to shoot top German and Nazi ...read more

Sherman on the move

On this day in 1864, nearly a week into the famous March to the Sea, the army of Union General William T. Sherman moves toward central Georgia, destroying property and routing small militia units it its path. Advanced units of the army skirmished with scattered Rebel forces at ...read more