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Bob Babbit - Standing in the Shadow of James Jamerson

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by bucephylus, Aug 14, 2019.

  1. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    Bob Babbit has to be one of THE most under appreciated bass players in our record. Of course, a bunch of us know about the 1972 tune Scorpio. But, I recently came face to face with his sophisticated and powerful lines, while listening carefully to Joan Osborne’s rendition of Heat Wave. Give it a listen, and if possible use good phones so you can hear what he’s laying down.

    Sheer genius. And worth some study. Admittedly, it might not work so well without the bari sax taking the back beat shots. But, holy crap. Sophisticated, understated, creative. Power. Really a fantastic line, and certainly nothing I would have come up with. The guy was simply amazing. Kind of like Jamerson, in that you’re not too sure there’s much going on until you listen really carefully.
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
    Great tone, too!
    9mmMike and bucephylus like this.
  3. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I discovered Bob Babbitt when I saw Tim Curry at a club around here in 1979. And though Tim Curry's songs were kind of meh, I sure enjoyed watching Bob playing like the master he was. Took him a while to get his due, but after Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, he got it.
  4. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Fusion Cats Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Inner City Blues - simple genius.
  5. 9mmMike

    9mmMike Would you happen to have a cookie for me? Supporting Member

    Bob B. is one of my bass hero's. He totally understood the role of bassist. An all around great player and a fine gent by all accounts. Wish he was still around.
  6. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    TBH, when SITSOM released, I was SO focused on Jamerson’s lines and legacy that I failed to appreciate what Bob was doing right there in front of my ears. My bad. His lines definitely stand on their own and are worth the extra effort. Where JJ was funky, Babbit was a bit more driving, but still SO creative.
    9mmMike and JimmyM like this.
  7. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    "Midnight Train to Georgia" would be sufficient to cement his place in the bassists' hall of fame.
  8. Bob Babbit is equal to JJ as were several other 50's 60's bass players deserving study and credit for their work. I remember meeting Bob and both of us having a big laugh over having worked side gigs as wrestlers.
    SwitchGear and kesslari like this.
  9. OldDog52

    OldDog52 Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2011
    I still recall his appearance on American Idol. He got total respect from everyone, especially Randy Jackson. It was probably memorable for him too. He wasn’t around much longer.
    SwitchGear, Jhengsman and JimmyM like this.
  10. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    As much as I love Babbitt and have since the 70's, nope. I'd be interested to know who the other 50's 60's era bassists are?

    Jamerson had a style that I didn't hear in others until AFTER him.

    IMO there's a huge chasm between being busy and being busy and inventive. Putting space in places others might hammer through, string crossing, very interesting note selections. I don't put Jaco in JJ's class. And that in no way diminishes what Jaco did.

    Early Michael Henderson is a great approximation of the style but he too stood on Jameson's shoulders.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019
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  11. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    In bass circles Babbitt has been a legend for a long time. The stories about "Scorpio" are true... back then it was a test of your abilities... and not for chop's sake. It was a long groove bass solo on a single. Pretty much unheard of. I'd even say groundbreaking. And the coolest part was it was Babbitt, in his own style, not doing a Jamerson vibe.

    Man, I can hear the conga breakdown in my head like it was yesterday.

    Another example would be Willie Weeks' legendary track with Donny Hathaway. Can people play them? Sure.

    But they didn't play them first.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019
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  12. OldDog52

    OldDog52 Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2011
    I found the video of Babbitt on American Idol in 2011. Bob isn’t shown much but you can clearly hear him playing. Skip to about 1:30.

    Goatrope and 9mmMike like this.
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I have to agree with this. Babbitt definitely had his own style and could cop the Jamerson vibe bigtime when needed, but Jamerson did it first and that counts for a lot. But I'd also agree with bassbrad that he and others are absolutely worthy of study.
    DWBass and design like this.
  14. keyboardguy

    keyboardguy Supporting Member

    May 11, 2005
    Some more Bob...

    OldDog52 likes this.
  15. howard in nyc

    howard in nyc Supporting Member

    Jul 16, 2011
    new york city
    I am not a musician, a rank amateur. I had been just messing around with the bass for over 20 years. I knew of Babbitt and Jamerson before the movie, but SITSOM clued me in back when it was released. I stumbled on this interview with Babbitt last Christmastime. Somehow, the combo of where my head and heart happened to be, and his expression of passion, greatness and humility, I was inspired to dedicate myself to really learning to play. Been at it the last eight months. Wasn't anything specific he said, I'm not sure why, but I'm glad he nudged me.

    Link to Bob Babbitt Interview part 1 Part 2. Part 3.

    Another example
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  16. 16notes

    16notes Supporting Member

    Dec 18, 2005
    Tears of a Clown is a great line.

    His stuff in Philly was killer too. Then Came You and Rubber Band Man with the Spinners come to mind.

    As many have noted Bob could definitely cop the Jamerson style - but he also possessed his own unique voice both during and after Motown.

    He was a special talent and definitely left his mark - not many players who have had successful session careers in Detroit, Philly, New York and Nashville.
  17. nnnnnn


    Oct 27, 2018
    I don't know which other bassists bassbrad had in mind, but I don't think he meant they had the same style as Jamerson, rather they had their own styles that were as good in their own ways (regardless of whether they could also cop the Jamerson thing).
  18. Off the top of my head late at night:
    Bill Black
    Duck Dunn
    Joe Osborne
    Moe Foster
    Willie Weeks
    Jerry Jemmot
    Jimmy Johnson (Swampers)
    George Porter Jr.
    Willie Dixon
    Arthur U. Poon likes this.
  19. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I didn't think that either. I read it as being on the same level. Which is why I disagree that there were.
  20. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    We definitely hear these folks differently.

    Equals? Nope. Again, that doesn't diminish their work, it recognizes someone working at a different level of creativity. I'm a fan of most of these guys, since back in the day. Love a lot of their work. But no.

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