In music, sampling is the reuse of a portion of a sound recording in another recording.
The process of sampling emerged in the 1940s with “musique concrète”, developed by French composer Pierre Schaeffer. Musique Concrète was an experimental form of music created by recording sounds to tape, splicing them, and manipulating them to create “sound collages”- what Delia Derbyshire was doing over in the UK with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to create the original Doctor Who theme!
You could say that the Mellotron was one of the earliest samplers- an electro-mechanical musical instrument, played by pressing keys to trigger a length of magnetic tape against a capstan, which pulled it across a playback head (see my stories from NAMM in the highlights section to see the inside of a Mellotron). The tape featured pre-recorded “samples” of instruments, like the flute for instance. You can hear the flute of a Mellotron on The Beatles’ famous “Strawberry Fields Forever”.
But the term “sampling” wasn’t introduced until the Fairlight CMI came out in the 1970s. Soon after that came the E-mu Emulator, Akai S950, and Akai MPC once technology and memory improved.
DJs and producers started sampling vinyl records in the 1980s, and since then its been a pretty important part of musical history!
What is one of the most sampled songs? Well, James Brown’s “The Funky Drummer” of course! Specifically the drum break and orchestral hit, which you can hear on Bell Biv DeVoe's "Poison" as an example.
References: Inna Di Mood Podcast- Paul Nice Pinterest, Wiki, Chuck D Reflects On Clyde Stubblefield's Impact As Hip Hop's Most Sampled Drummer, Sound on Sound, The Guardian.