Hamilton Bohannon has died. The drummer and journeyman musician was 78. He was no household name, but there’s a good chance your household has heard his music – whether when a teenage Bohannon was playing drums for the teenaged (“Little”) Stevie Wonder and as the bandleader backing many other Motown players, or via his own funk and disco gems often recorded under his surname only – but if not there’s every chance you’ve still heard his work; sampled, as it was, across several hip-hop and R’n’B tracks (Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Justin Timberlake).
His idea of the disco drumbeat – making funk less syncopated, edging in towards the template for house music – was one of those deceptively simple moves – he was like AC/DC’s Phil Rudd but for disco and funk rather than hard rock. His idea of four on the floor was rigid and wonderful – hitting that bass drum on the 1, 2, 3 and 4 rather than on just the 1 and 3 as is so often the case. Total drive.
He released his debut solo album in 1973 and though it wasn’t a commercial hit it became a sought after gem for collectors and funk fans – and there was something like 18 records from Bohannon across the 70s and 1980s.
You can check them out – still – many of them around and about on the streaming platforms, great clips and track on YouTube and the albums still turn up in garage sales and second hand stores.
Marvellous drummer, great musician and bandleader.
R.I.P. Hamilton Bohannon