Apr 2, 2015

Blogging from A to Z: B is for...Bass


Meghan Trainor wasn't wrong when she proclaimed it's All About That Bass.


...although I'm pretty sure she was talking about having a big booty.
Whaaaa?

Nonetheless, bass is where it's at as far as music is concerned. The bass and drums form the backbone of most popular music and without it you end up with Kenny G.


I used to play bass guitar and it's to an unsung pioneer of the instrument I'd like to dedicate the rest of this blog post.

I'm pretty sure if I asked you to name your favorite bassist you'd give me a list which might include: Paul McCartney, Sting, Flea, and if you're Canadian, Geddy Lee. Let's be honest though, it's the lead singer with their antics out front, or the lead guitarist in their tight pants that usually draw your attention. 
The average music listener knows the Rolling Stones's Mick "Big Lips" Jagger and Keith "Has taken so many drugs he should really have died years ago" Richards, but do you remember the bassist's name? Did you know he left the band more than 20 years ago and they've been using session guys ever since?

(The bassist was Bill Wyman, by the way)

Bassists have always been a little anonymous, but James Jamerson is a name too few have ever heard.



James Jamerson

Jamerson was part of the group of session players - The Funk Brothers - who created the "Motown sound" and helped propel The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Four Tops and many more to worldwide fame.


In all, Jamerson played bass on thirty #1 pop singles and over seventy hits including Heard it through the Grapevine, Baby Love, Ain't no Mountain High Enough, Get Ready, I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch), How Sweet It Is, You Can't Hurry Love, and many more.

Jamerson wasn't just a run of the mill player either. He is recognized as a pioneer in broadening the purpose of the bass player, developing a more melodic style and syncopated rhythms to enhance the overall sound. No less than the likes of Paul McCartney (The Beatles), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Pino Palladino, John Entwhistle (The Who), Jaco Pastorius (Weather Report) and Jack Bruce (Cream) have all cited Jamerson as a big influence on their playing.

Sadly, Jamerson was never officially credited on any of the Motown songs he played on from 1959 and through the 60's. It wasn't until Marvin Gaye's What's Going On in 1971 that he finally got some credit and then, only two years later, he left Motown.

Jamerson died in 1983, aged 47, after a long battle with alcoholism. After his death, he finally received the accolades he deserved so much in life: inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with the other Funk Brothers, and awarded a Grammy for his contribution to music.

So, here's to the unsung hero of band. Turn up the bass...and listen to the peerless James Jamerson...






That was B in the A to Z Blog Challenge. Come back tomorrow for C. And in the meantime go to http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/ and check out some of the other bloggers.

~ GSY

5 comments:

  1. Interesting stuff. My husband plays lead guitar, but he always admires the bassists when he watches other bands play, and he is fascinated with music history such as here in your post. In fact, I will show it to him and see what he thinks...

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  2. Hi, Catherine! I too am fascinated with music history and am always learning something new about it. I hope your husband enjoys the post...

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog. :)

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  3. hey! is it true that he used to play laying on his back in the studio? (Not sure where I heard it, but the story had to do with writing the amazing baseline to 'Can't Hurry Love')

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  4. the bass is definitely the underdog of the "band". Well written!

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  5. Hi Clark, I honestly don't know! I've never heard that story about him lying on his back. I'm thinking he could probably play standing on his head too. lol.

    Hi Stephanie, I agree...I often used to moan that I was the underdog of the band I was in lol. Didn't get me far though, just lots of people rolling their eyes at me :)

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