Groove is such an intangible thing. On the one thing, you can feel it when it’s there. On the other, you just cannot really dissect it, nor express it in notes. They say there is no good music without one. And then, there’s those grooves that have undoubtedly helped a given song seduce audiences the world over. Those are the ones that we are listing today. Subjectively and selectively, of course. After all, this article is not meant to be a doctoral thesis and we still didn’t manage to close the list at 10 (hence the supplement at the bottom). Enjoy!
10. James Brown – “Funky Drummer” (drummer: Clyde Stubblefield)
This famous groove is one of the most frequently sampled (if not THE most frequently sampled) in the history of popular music. Over the years, it has been used by such artists as Public Enemy, RUN DMC, NWA, George Michael or Enigma (and there’s many more). Rumour has it though that Clyde Stubblefield hasn’t made a single penny out of those millions…
9. Michael Jackson – “Billie Jean” (drummer: Leon Ndugu Chancler)
If “Funky Drummer” is amillion-dollar groove, then this one is a billion-dollar groove. Played in compliance with Quincy Jones’ no-drum-fill policy. A single open hi hat here and there, perhaps a single snare note extra an eighth and a sixteenth after the previous one and that’s it. Who has never shaken a leg (or hip for that matter) when hearing it? Not a single hand in the air?
8. Steely Dan – “Home At Last” (drummer: Bernard “Pretty” Purdie)
The famous “Purdie Shuffle” applied and perfected by the artist before when collaborating with the likes of Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Frank Sinatra or Ray Charles. On this track, taken from Steely Dan’s 1977 classic release “Aja”, it shines even more brightly thanks to magnificent sound production.
7. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Give It Away” (drummer: Chad Smith)
A groove which put RHCP in the mainstream. By The Way (a pun absolutely intended), the 0.08 fill is also worth a million bucks…
6. Gloria Gaynor – “I Will Survive” (drummer: James Gadson)
There’s not a living soul in this galaxy that hasn’t danced to this groove at least once. Let this also be a tribute to 70s disco drummers, who laid the foundations for the biggest dance hits of the era (Dennis Bryon for The Bee Gees, the late Ola Brunkert for ABBA or, also no longer with us, Tony Thompson for Chic).
5. Led Zeppelin – “When The Levee Breaks” (drummer: John Bonham)
How many times has this mighty-sounding groove recorded in the stairwell of the three-storey hall at Headley Grange been sampled? How many more times (again, a pun intended) will it be sampled in the future? The “Funky Drummer” of rock, it is.
4. Sting – “Seven Days” (drummer: Vinnie Colaiuta)
How many drummers stopped whatever they were doing the moment they first heard this number on the radio or saw it on MTV in 1993? All of them, we should think. For sure, all of those who didn’t only limit themselves to metal and punk. Is it possible to write an international hit with the hi hat accented on 1, 3 and 5? Sure it is! This time, we won’t ask about anybody’s dancing experiences, though…
3. The Beatles – “Come Together” (drummer: Ringo Starr)
Is it a fill or already a groove? Since it is played repetitively, we have decided to count it as a groove – one of the most characteristic in pop history. Worth a gazillion dollars, pound, euros and yens. Anyone wanted to say something demeaning about Ringo?
2. Benny Goodman Orchestra – “Sing, Sing, Sing” (drummer: Gene Krupa)
The start of everything as far as the modern drum kit and modern drumming are concerned. Our countryman, the genius Eugene, was a true pioneer and the first true star drummer. Obviously, not without merit.
1. Toto – “Rosana” (drummer: Jeff Porcaro)
The groove of grooves. The legitimate child of Bernarda Purdie’s “Home At Last” (earier on this list) and John Bonham (“Fool In The Rain“). Had Jeff Porcaro come up with and recorded only this one, he would still have had a place in music history. But there were many more…
Do you have your own suggestions for our list of million-dollar grooves? Send them to us! Fell free to also comment on our rating…
Paul Simon – “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” (drummer: Steve Gadd)
It was never the hit “You Can Call Me Al” was in our country, but the characteristic way Steve Gadd applies rudiments here is considered a drumming classic all around the world.