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Bernard Purdie Biography 2019



Bernard “Pretty” Purdie is an American drummer, considered an influential and innovative funk musician. He is known for his precise musical time keeping and his signature use of triplets against a half-time backbeat: the "Purdie Shuffle.


He hit the New York music scene in the early 1960’s, and landed his first hit with Mickey and Sylvia — the beginning of a stellar career. This led to his 25-year association with Aretha Franklin. Purdie started working with Aretha Franklin as musical director in 1970 and held that position for five years, as well as drumming for Franklin's opening act, King Curtis and The King Pins. He performed with both bands at the Fillmore West; the resulting live recordings were released as Aretha Live At The Fillmore West (May 1971) and King Curtis's Live At Fillmore West (1971). His best-known track with Franklin was "Rock Steady", on which he played what he described as "a funky and low down beat". Drummer, musician, producer, arranger and musical director, Bernard Purdie can be proud of a discography of over 3,000 recordings.


Purdie was born on June 11, 1942 in Elkton, Maryland, USA, the eleventh of fifteen children. At an early age he began hitting cans with sticks and learned the elements of drumming techniques from overhearing lessons being given by Leonard Heywood. He later took lessons from Heywood and played in Heywood's big band.  Purdie's other influences at that time were Papa Jo Jones, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Joe Marshall, Art Blakey, as well as Cozy Cole, Sticks Evans, Panama Francis, Louis Bellson, and Herbie Lovelle.


Who provided the backbeat for Steely Dan's "Aja”? And for whom have Isaac Hayes, Donny Hathaway, B.B. King, Joe Cocker, Jeff Beck and Alan Jackson reserved that stool behind the drum kit?  Bernard “Pretty” Purdie.  He has anchored sessions with the Rolling Stones, James Brown and Tom Jones with equal ease.


His grooves have been sampled, cut and pasted on dance tracks and his groove is sought after in all genres of jazz, soul and funk. He is now a reference point in the basics of modern drumming with the innovation of the Purdie Shuffle, which was the inspiration behind Jeff Porcaro’s ‘Rosanna’, a fusion of Purdie’s Shuffle and John Bonham’s 'Fool In The Rain.' His definitive style has anchored sessions on some of the greatest songs of the modern era.


More recently he was the drummer for the 2009 Broadway revival of Hair and appeared on the associated Broadway cast recording. He was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2013.  Bernard Purdie remains a sought after studio and live performer. He lives in New Jersey, but still performs domestically and internationally - a lot!

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