Melvin Parker, Legendary Drummer for James Brown, Dies at 77

by Maggie Schneider

Drumming legend Melvin Parker passes away at 77 years old. He was an important member of James Brown’s band.

Melvin Parker, the iconic drummer for James Brown’s band, passed away on December 3rd, 2021. According to his obituary, the 77-year old died peacefully in Baltimore, Maryland. The statement is written on the website of R. Swinson Funeral Services, which is located in Kinston, North Carolina – the town where Parker grew up.

“The Parker family is in the process of making arrangements for a final goodbye” the obituary states. “Let’s keep the Parker family in our thoughts and prayers during this time of bereavement.”

Melvin Parker’s Musical Impact

Melvin Parker’s is responsible for much of the unique funk qualities of James Brown‘s music. His drumming is heard on some of Brown’s biggest hits. “Out of Sight,” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” and “I Got You (I Feel Good)” are all tunes that featured Parker. He played with the band through 1964 and 1965, until he was drafted into the military. In 1969, Parker rejoined the group for a year, playing drums on Brown’s album “Sex Machine.”

After the release of their 1969 record, band drama caused Parker to leave the group. This is when he joined his brother’s project, Maceo & All the King’s Men. It turns out that Maceo Brown played saxophone in James Brown’s band as well.

Although Parker joins his brother’s band, this is not the end of his work with James Brown. They team up on the 1976 hit “Get Up Offa That Thing.” In 2004, the singer himself praised his talent.

“And if I was getting ready to cut a record that was right, I would go get Melvin today, because he’s just like a metronome.”

Remembering Melvin Parker

Fans and friends alike remember Melvin Parker for his musicianship, as well as his character. Funk musician Bootsy Collins shares a sweet tribute to his friend on Twitter.

“We lost one of the greatest Drummer that ever played with James Brown,” Collins writes. “Mr. Melvin Parker, brother to Maceo Parker. In 1964 Melvin played on three of Brown’s recordings: “Out of Sight,” “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” and “I Got You (I Feel Good). Condolences to the Parker family.”

Other fans are sending posting condolences to the family online, sharing their fond memories of Parker’s music.

“Absolutely Right Melvin Parker was a great drummer. May he REST IN PEACE,” @redwardprice719 tweets.

“Thank u for amplifying his name. His beat was and is eternal,” @funktweet writes.

Plans for a service have not been announced at this time. However, his music is still very much alive. Let’s spin a few of his tracks in his honor today.