Chances are, if you mention the name James Jamerson to most people, they will give you a blank stare and have no idea who you are talking about. However, if you ask them if you have heard of the songs “My Girl,” “I Heard it Through The Grapevine,” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” they will immediately start singing the lyrics. Well, the man below, James Jamerson, was the session bassist on all of those tune and countless more.
James Jamerson was an original member of the Detroit-based session group referred to as the Funk Brothers. They were a collection of some of the best musicians around and were the backing band on a majority of the hit Motown albums from 1959-1972.
Sadly, most of the records did not credit these fabulous musicians so they did not become widely known until many years later. Now, James Jamerson is considered to be one of the most influential bass players of all time and his tone is sought after by modern bassists today.
Essentially, you really can’t listen to a funk or Motown song without either hearing Jamerson himself or hearing a bass sound that was inspired by him.
Unfortunately, James Jamerson passed away at the age of 47 in 1983 after his long addiction to alcohol caught up to him. His legacy lives on as his style continues to influence the next generation of bass players who are looking for that funky feel and groove.