James Jamerson, the most influential bass player in music history, died today (August 2, 1983).
The 47-year-old bass player died a bitter death due to his lack of credit, despite being the most influential bass player on most of Motown’s major hits.
James Jamerson was a member of The Funk Brothers, Motown’s legendary house band.
James Jamerson and company played in the “Snakepit” and Jamerson’s bass was largely responsible for crafting the “Motown Sound.”
As the main bass player for Motown, James Jamerson’s work can be heard on hits like “My Girl,” “You Can’t Hurry l
love,” “For Once In My Life,” “Dancing in the Streets,” “What’s Going On” and numerous others.
His post Motown credits include “Pressure Drop,” by Robert Palmer, “Rock The Boat,” by Hues Corporation and “Boogie Fever,” by The Sylvers.
But James Jamerson went mainly unnoticed until the 1970s, when Motown finally began giving session musicians credit on the albums the company released.
But in the end, it was James Jamerson’s alcohol abuse that undid his amazing career.
James Jamerson’s favorite drink was Metaxa and he always kept a bottle in his bass case.
Speaking of James Jamerson bass, it was known as “The Funk Machine.”
James Jamerson, who was born January 29, 1936, played a stock 1962 Sunburst Fender Precision.
In order to get his signature sounds, James Jamerson rarely changed the strings in his bass, unless they broke.
His drinking habits (and medication for alcohol withdrawl) prevented Jamerson from landing sessions in the late 70’s and early 80’s, which sent the legendary musician into a deep depression.
Just one day prior to Jamerson’s death in 1983, his beloved 1962 Fender Precision Bass was stolen.
Musician/Funk Brother Eddie Willis described James Jamerson’s condition in his final days.
“[Eddie] Bongo [Brown] and I want to see him, cause we had heard he wasn’t doing too well,” Willis said in the book “Standing In The Shadows of Motown.”
“He was in bed and was very, very thin. He didn’t look too much like Jamerson anymore. When we walked in he started crying, cause he was so thrilled to see us. Bongo went outside; he couldn’t take it. He said to me ‘this guy won’t make it three more days.’l
On August 1, James Jamerson’s wife Annie found the legendary bass player slumped over his bed around 9:00 PM.
The following James Jamerson died at USC County Hospital.
“There is hardly a successful poppy and in the world that this doesn’t go home it’s to James Jamerson,” Berry Gordy said of James Jamerson’s influence.