Bass player James Jamerson was the personification of Motown, so much so that to many fans he was just “the Motown bassist,” no name necessary. Truth be told, often no name known, except in musical inner circles and among the truly informed. Heard but unseen, moving and grooving with the big names, the music needed him and wouldn’t have existed without him. Here’s a fine treatment of one the greats of Motown. It’s got literally hundreds of interviews, scores for the music he played, and lots of photos, not just of Jamerson naturally but of many people who made Motown sound happen and scenes of it happening. And of course, how can a book on the Motown sound capture the sound by itself? So you also get a two-hour CD. Good stuff. Guaranteed you’ve heard this man play, and if you don’t know who he is, well, here’s the cure.
The bass sound on nearly every Motown song ever recorded
His influence wasn’t limited to Motown. You can hear him play on the work of many other bands where you wouldn’t expect to find him (hint: the Beatles), and they sound the way they do partly because of Jamerson. He may very well be the most important and influential musician in half a century. Or at least, put him where he belongs and it looks that way by contrast. Motown Records didn’t credit recording session musicians in the 1960s, so his name isn’t on a lot of the records that he played for, but he was there just the same. James Jamerson was part of a group of studio musicians known (unofficially) as the Funk Brothers. As such, he played on Jr. Walker’s “Shotgun,” Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In My Life” and “I Was Made To Love Her,” Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” – the list is way too long to fit here. He’s on almost every Motown record (usually estimated at 95%) between 1962 and 1968. So this is an important life in modern music history, and the book tells it well.