James Jamerson

Motown's tormented genius, James Jamerson is unanimously acclaimed as the first virtuoso of the electric bass. James has influenced (whether they know it or not) every electric bassist to ever pick up the instrument. Arriving at Motown in 1959, James' bass playing evolved over the next decade from a traditional root-fifth cocktail style of bass playing into an astonishing new style built upon a flurry of sixteenth-note runs and syncopations, “pushing the envelope” dissonances, and fearless and constant exploration.

From 1964 to 1972, the entire Motown era flourished in large part due to the driving sound of James Jamerson's innovative bass playing. Up until 1968, his brilliant playing appeared on virtually every song. He was purposely emphasized in the mix to be clearly heard over a car radio, and the wide popularity of Motown contributed to the ascension of the bass as the key ingredient in R&B and soul music. Like the blues before, the influence of a prominent bass would spread far beyond these genres to pop, rock and jazz and fusion.

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