Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August 2: Unsung Motown bassist, James Jamerson - “Reach Out I’ll Be There” - died on this date in 1983...

... he was 45-years-old when he died.

Did you know?
Though few among the record-buying public ever never knew Jamerson by name, they were well-acquainted with his work, which included the bass lines on such Motown classics as “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” by the Four Tops; “Dancing in the Street,” by Martha and the Vandellas; “I Was Made to Love Her,” by Stevie Wonder; and “You Can’t Hurry Love,” by the Supremes.

Jamerson was known for his unique RH technique for playing the electric bass. Adapted from his time as an upright player during his early career, he played using only the index finger on his RH which he dubbed “the hook.”
The other fingers rested on the pickup guard of his stock 1962 Fender Precision Bass (P-Bass).

He was also one of the first bass players in popular music to incorporate the use of a lot of open string passing tones (notes that do not fall within the chord structure), This is another “trick” used by upright bass players, to facilitate easier movement around the large neck and fingerboard of the upright instrument. This lead him to have a sound easily distinguished amongst his peers.

One of the unsung heroes of the Motown sound, James Jamerson was described by Motown founder Berry Gordy as “a genius on the bass...and incredible improviser in the studio and somebody I always wanted on my sessions.” He was the anchor of the in-house group at Motown dubbed the Funk Brothers.

(Continued below video and Amazon portals ...)

(Press album cover for direct link to the entire Amazon Website):

The Best of the Funk Brothers: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium CollectionStanding in the Shadows of Motown

His groove-oriented melodicism brought about a broader awareness of the role and possibilities of the bass guitar, and no less an authority than Paul McCartney rates him as an influence on his own playing. In a 1995 interview with Bass Guitar magazine, McCartney recalled his training on the instrument: “I started listening to other bass players mainly Motown. As time went on, James Jamerson became my hero...because he was so good and melodic.”

Born in 1938 in Charleston, South Carolina, Jamerson moved to Detroit in the early Fifties. He took up the bass in high school and joined Jackie Wilson’s band later in the decade.

In 1959, Jamerson became a founding member of Motown studio band, and his inventive work on the Fender Precision bass proved a defining element of the Motown sound. In 1964, he stopped touring to devote himself exclusively to studio work at Motown’s “Hitsville” headquarters, on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit.

One of the guarded secrets of the Motown sound was the interaction between bass and drums. According to Motown keyboardist and bandleader Earl Van Dyke, “We were sworn to secrecy, and one of the secrets was between James and [drummers] Benny Benjamin and Uriel Jones.” Jamerson followed the company west when Berry moved Motown’s headquarters to Los Angeles, but the association between Motown and Jamerson ended in 1973.

Jamerson, who’d been battling alcoholism, died of pneumonia in 1983 at the age of 45.


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