The signature funk and groove sound pioneered by the late Godfather of Soul, James Brown was bolstered by the stellar drumming of Clyde “Funky Drummer” Stubblefield and John “Jabo” Starks. Earlier this week, Starks passed away at his home in Mobile, Alabama after battling a pair of long illnesses.
Jab’o Starks, the drummer who provided the steady beat for James Brown’s iconic mid-’60s band and who stayed with the King of Soul through the early ’70s, died at the age of 79 Tuesday morning at his home in Mobile, Ala. According to his manager, Kathie Williams, Starks was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes, a bone marrow disorder, in January 2017, which developed into acute leukemia one week ago, after which he entered hospice care.
Starks, whose given name was John and whose nickname is sometimes spelled “Jabo,” joined James Brown’s band in 1965. He became the group’s fifth drummer just months before Clyde Stubblefield became its sixth. in August of that year. Starks and Stubblefield’s rhythmic partnership became the foundation of a lifelong friendship — “brothers,” as Starks told an interviewer in 2013. Stubblefield died in February 2017. The pair played together for decades, most recently as Funkmasters.
Along with Stubblefield, Starks has been one of the most-sampled drummers in recording history with acts such as LL Cool J, The Roots, Kendrick Lamar, and many others.
Rest powerfully in peace, Brother Starks.