The cause of his death has not been made public
Hamilton Bohannon, a former Motown drummer and bandleader who went on to become one of the pioneers of disco in the 1970s, passed away on Friday from unspecified causes, reports the Newnan Times-Herald. He was 78 years old.
Born Hamilton Frederick Bohannon on 7 March 1942 in Newnan, Georgia – the town to which he would return in later life, after many years living in Detroit – Hamilton Bohannon started his professional career as a drummer for Stevie Wonder, having previously played at an amateur level with a then-unknown Jimi Hendrix, a lifelong friend. He was then promoted by Motown Records from the drummer's stool to a bandleader role, working with the likes of The Four Tops, The Supremes and Marvin Gaye, before embarking on a solo career in the early 70s.
During this period he was incredibly prolific, releasing 19 studio albums in just 16 years. He scored three UK Top 40 hits – South African Man, Foot Stompin' Music and Disco Stomp, all in 1975 – but it was on the disco dancefloor, not the pop charts, where he made the most impact: these and other classic cuts such as Let's Start The Dance (1978) helped to establish the four-to-the-floor disco blueprint that, another decade or so later, would be reinvented as "house music".
By the end of the 1980s his recording career was largely over, but his tracks have been endlessly plundered for samples by house, hip-hop and R&B producers ever since. Notably, a loop from 1978's Me & The Gang provided the backbone for Paul Johnson's Get Get Down in the late 90s, while Bohannon bites have also cropped up on tracks by Pete Rock, Justin Timberlake, Jungle Brothers, Dimitri From Paris, Digable Planets, Mr Oizo, Jay-Z and many more.
Reflecting his impact on popular music worldwide, the town of Newnan honoured him by naming a street after him in 2017. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.