Prince Paid Off 'Funky Drummer' Clyde Stubblefield's Medical Bills


Prince photographed in the 1990s.

In the wake of his untimely death, Prince's secret philanthropy is coming to light.

After getting diagnosed with cancer 15 years ago, legendary drummer and James Brown collaborator Clyde Stubblefield had $90,000 worth of hospital bills.

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Stubblefield's wife Jody Hannon received an unexpected call while Stubblefield was undergoing chemotherapy for bladder cancer: Prince's people were on the line, and they wanted to know how much Stubblefield needed in order to pay off his massive medical bills. True to his buttoned-up, discreet nature, Prince requested that his donation -- a whopping $80,000 to help pay for Stubblefield's treatment -- be kept a secret from the press.

Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
Clyde Stubblefield performs on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on March 29, 2011.

A contact from Prince's former charity Love 4 One Another told the Wisconsin State Journal that Stubblefield was one of Prince's "drumming idols." Stubblefield is best known for his drum break in James Brown's "Funky Drummer"; his drum beat is now a cornerstone of hip-hop and the most sampled beat in the genre, from LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" to Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" and "Bring the Noise."

To Stubblefield, Prince's uniqueness went far beyond his sensual lyricism and purple ensembles. "He was very different. To help people, number one, that makes you different right there," Stubblefield told Madison, Wisconsin's News 3.

Though Stubblefield once had the opportunity to play in Prince's studio, the two never crossed paths, which made Prince's large donation all the more baffling for Stubblefield. "I still don't understand why," Stubblefield said.