Friday, 31 August 2012

Vale Bob Babbitt- The Funk Brother

I've only just discovered that legendary bass player Bob Babbitt passed away last month. Babbitt was a giant, one of the great bass players and a member of the funk brothers session crew that worked at Motown. He was in the shadow of James Jamerson who probably stands as one of the most influential bass players in modern music. Babbitt wasn't far behind, he left a body of work that is amazing and he played on some of the seminal R&B, soul and funk albums to come out of the late 60's and early 70's. He was also a very respected, well liked and humble man in recognising his achievements. If you watch the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown you see Nate Watts and Ralphe Armstrong interviewed about Babbitt and his bass solo on Scorpio and if couldn't play that solo you couldn't get a gig in Detroit in the early 70's!

Babbitt looms large in the history of the Detroit music scene, one of the earliest hit records he played on was Little Town flirt by Del Shannon and I think Bob received a co writing credit for the song. He had been part of Stevie Wonders touring band and arrived at Motown around 1967 about the same time as guitarist Dennis Coffey who had also worked with Del Shannon in the early 60's. His standout work was on Marvin Gaye's What's Going On album, Babbitt plays bass on Inner City Blues and he adds these funky bursts of sound in the lead in to the vocals and then just sits under the groove locking it in, just pounding that sound. On Dennis Coffey's Scorpio he is at his dexterous best with blasts of pulsating rhythm. On Edwin Starr's War he again applies a pulsating bass that fits beautifully with the fuzz guitar which is supplied I'm assuming by Dennis Coffey. Babbitt shared a similarity with Jamerson he had the ability to pack an amazing punch into each songs with his bass lines but never was the groove or the bottom compromised.

During the 70's Babbitt remained an in demand session player working with the likes of Barry Manilow, Elton John and Dionne Warwick, he played on the original Copacobana. He also played on one of the great soul songs by Darrell Banks, Open The Door To Your Heart. Rest in peace Funk Brother.

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