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Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean' drummer ​Ndugu Chancler dead at 65

Known for his work with Miles Davis, James Brown and Tina Turner

  • Harrison Williams
  • 5 February 2018
Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean' drummer ​Ndugu Chancler dead at 65

Prolific session musician and producer Leon Ndugu Chancler, who played drums on classic Michael Jackson tracks ‘Billie Jean’, ‘P.Y.T.’ and ‘Baby Be Mine’, died on Saturday at the age of 65. The cause of death is not yet known at this time.

During his six decade long career Chancler performed or collaborated with a host of legendary musicians, including Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Weather Report, Hugh Masekela, Frank Sinatra, Lionel Richie, James Brown and Tina Turner, among others.

Roots drummer Questlove posted a tribute on his Instagram where he broke down Chancler's contribution to Michael Jackson’s tracks ‘Billie Jean’, ‘P.Y.T.’ and ‘Baby Be Mine’ in 1982:

"In my opinion, the 'Billie Jean' intro is the greatest example of something so simple that you take it for granted. But if you truly dissect it. It's a complex compelling performance. The tone is spot on. Enough snap on the snare but not too thin that it enters Ska/James Brown crack snare territory.

"[The performance] literally gives MJ his DNA. You know what it is one second in. Its creator, Jazz/funk great #NduguChancler (mind you on a gazillion other hit songs) passed away today. Giving all due respect and praise to the drummer that sparked a revolution of dance madness breakbeat mania."

Read about the impact Michael Jackson had on the art world here, check out a posthumous project called 'Scream' here and watch his first ever moonwalk here

View Questlove's tribute below.

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