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.
Benjamin originally learned to play drums in the style of the big band jazz groups in the 1940s. 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 Benjamin’s drumming style upon meeting Gordy 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, “Shop Around” by The Miracles 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.
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.