Benny Benjamin

For the songwriter Claude "Bennie" Benjamin, see Bennie Benjamin.
Benny Benjamin
Background information
Also known as Papa Zita
Born (1925-07-25)July 25, 1925
Mobile, Alabama
Died April 20, 1969(1969-04-20) (aged 43)
Detroit, Michigan
Genres R&B, jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Drums
Years active 1958–1968
Labels Motown
Associated acts The Funk Brothers

William "Benny" Benjamin (July 25, 1925 – April 20, 1969), nicknamed Papa Zita, was an American musician, most notable as the primary drummer for the Motown studio band known as The Funk Brothers. He was a native of Birmingham, Alabama.[1]

Benjamin originally learned to play drums in the style of the big band jazz groups.[2] In 1958, Benjamin was Motown's first studio drummer, where he was noted for his dynamic style. Several Motown record producers, including Berry Gordy, refused to work on any recording sessions unless Benjamin was the drummer and James Jamerson was the bassist. The Beatles singled out his drumming style upon meeting him in the UK. Among the Motown songs Benjamin performed the drum tracks for are early hits such as "Money (That's What I Want)" by Barrett Strong and "Do You Love Me" by The Contours; as well as later hits such as "Get Ready" and "My Girl" by The Temptations, "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" by Stevie Wonder, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Gladys Knight & the Pips and "Going to a Go-Go" by The Miracles.

Benjamin was influenced by the work of drummers Buddy Rich and Tito Puente. He recorded with a studio set composed of Ludwig, Slingerland, Rogers and Gretsch components and probably Zildjian cymbals.

By the late 1960s, Benjamin struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, and fellow Funk Brothers Uriel Jones and Richard "Pistol" Allen increasingly recorded more of the drum tracks for the studio's releases. Benjamin died on April 20, 1969 of a stroke at age 43, and was inducted into the "Sidemen" category of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.[1]


  1. 1 2 "Benny Benjamin Biography". Rock and Roll inductee biography. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. 2010. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  2. "Standing in the Shadows of Motown- the Funk Brothers". The Best-Kept Secret in the History of Motown. Rock and roll Hall of Fame Funk Brothers. 2010. Retrieved November 22, 2011.

External links

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