Edwin Birdsong, the jazz and funk keyboardist whose music has been sampled by artists like Daft Punk and Gang Starr, died Monday. He was 77. The musician’s son, Singh Birdsong, and his ex-wife, Angela Birdsong, confirmed his death on Instagram and Facebook, respectively.
Birdsong was an accomplished solo artist, as well as a prolific session musician and producer who worked with like Stevie Wonder and Roy Ayers. Years later, his music would be sampled by an array of artists, most notably Daft Punk, who tweaked Birdsong’s 1979 cut “Cola Bottle Baby” for their 2001 song, “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” (which was later sampled by Kanye West on “Stronger”).
Birdsong’s 1980 track “Rapper Dapper Snapper” has also been sampled by numerous hip-hop artists. De La Soul first cribbed the cut for their 1989 hit “Me Myself and I,” while DJ Premier later used it on Gang Starr’s 2003 track, “Skillz.”
The son of a minister, Birdsong got his start in music as a singer in the Los Angeles Community Choir. He later served in Vietnam and spent time playing for service personnel in clubs throughout Germany. After returning to the United States, Birdsong relocated to New York City and studied music and composition at the Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard.
In 1971, Birdsong signed with Polydor, and over the next decade released five albums of experimental jazz and funk, including his 1972 debut What It Is, 1973’s Supernatural and his 1979 self-titled effort, which featured “Cola Bottle Baby.” While Birdsong released his last solo album, Funtaztik, in 1981, he went on to work extensively as a producer and session music.