Hamilton Bohannon was making disco before disco

Hamilton Bohannon was making disco before disco thumbnail

The drummer, who has died aged 78, pushed a relentless beat loved by dance floors and hip-hop samplers alike

In 1973, Hamilton Bohannon, who died on Friday aged 78, released his debut album, Stop & Go. It was a solid set of tough, largely instrumental funk tracks, the kind of album that was destined to get lost amid the glut of incredible soul music pouring out of American studios – 1973 was the year of Funkadelic’s Cosmic Slop, Sly and the Family Stone’s Fresh, Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions and Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On – and to be rediscovered years later by crate-diggers and sample hunters, which it duly was: plundered for tracks by Jay-Z, Mary J Blige, Public Enemy, the Ultramagnetic MCs and Pete Rock.

You might say it sounded like the work of a musical journeyman, which pretty much describes Hamilton Bohannon in 1973. He’d spent the 1960s drumming for Stevie Wonder before putting together the Motown Sound – a kind of touring equivalent of the label’s legendary sessioneers the Funk Brothers – who played gigs with Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops and Martha and the Vandellas, and then leading the house bands at a variety of Detroit nightclubs. But on its title track, Stop & Go contained the germ of an idea: Bohannon’s drumming stripped away the syncopated style that was standard on funk tracks in favour of a simple, driving rhythm, the bass drum playing four beats to the bar, or four-to-the-floor.

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