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Fans of James Brown are no doubt familiar with the sounds of Clyde “Funky Drummer” Stubblefield within the framework of the band. Helping to propel the Godfather of Soul’s funk groove to its oft-studied heights was fellow drummer John “Jabo” Starks, who passed away earlier this week.

John Henry Starks was born October 26, 1938 in Jackson, Alabama. A self-taught drummer, Starks found himself as a young man playing behind legends such as John Lee Hooker and Big Mama Thornton among others but it was his time with Bobby “Blue” Bland’s band in the late ’50’s that lifted the ceiling on his career.

In the ’60’s, he joined Brown’s band and was joined by Stubblefield shortly after. Together, the two drummers cultivated a powerful backing rhythm that accentuated Brown’s aggressive style, despite their different playing styles. They would go on to not only define Brown’s sound through songs like “The Big Payback” and “Super Bad” but also later on in the world of Hip-Hop with the likes of LL Cool J, Public Enemy, The Notorious B.I.G., and countless others.

Away from Brown, Starks also provided drums for Lyn Collins’ smash hit “Think (About It)” and drummed with the JB’s and others before reuniting with Stubblefield as the Funkmasters.

Starks had been battling a pair of illnesses for some time and passed away on May 1 at the age of 79.

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