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James Jamersons lack of recognition

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Fire-Starter, Mar 10, 2003.

  1. Fire-Starter


    Aug 11, 2002
    The more I read about this guy, the more I wish I could have met him. How could a man, who has(and is still) having such a impact on bass players world wide, not get the recognition he deserved during his time? James was part of the "Motown Sound" or aka "the funk brothers" James died in 1984, I believe he was about 45 years old, too much talent, too little time, NO RECOGNITION:spit:
    1:why did it take aprx 30 years for him to get the credit do him?
    2:how could a bass player with his talents, find it hard to find work after leaving Detroit to go to LA?
    3:what led to his drinking problems?
    4:did the above three questions have a BIG negative effect on his life?

    its a shame that people get their flowers AFTER they're dead instead of while they are alive!
  2. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Most artists (not just in music) seem to have the most impact when they're dead... that means that they were cool and underground... I guess.
  3. I wouldn't mind Jamerson's lack of recognition so much if it weren't for the fact that most of the money the Funk Brothers' fabulous playing generated ended up going up the noses of Motown execs in the '70s.
  4. I don't buy the "artist having to die to be recognized" theory. As far as music goes, every great composer (save one) in the western art tradition was recognized in his lifetime as being a great composer. Mozart, Beethoven, Bartok, Brahms. The only one who wasn't was Bach and that was only because he was writing in a style that was already old at the time and everyone wanted to hear the "modern sound" of his sons. He was recognized as a great organist in his time however.

    Getting back to JJ. At the time JJ played most of his great tracks, Motown was interested in the song writer and the star. The song writer had to be revered since that's is where part of the royalities went - and also this allowed for easy record keeping. The star artists who recorded the song was the other category that had to have recognition. They sold the song!

    But Jamerson WAS recognized by Motown execs as being the bass player THEY wanted on a lot of songs. He was also recognized by other great musicians of his time inside and outside of Motown. What he lacked was the critical mass appeal breakout that put his name into the minds of average musicians and some of the folks on the street.

    As far back as 1972 one of my good friends had pointed out the bass line in Bernadette as being something special. It's not like no one knew the talent that was there.
  5. Paul A

    Paul A

    Dec 13, 1999
    Hertfordshire U.K!
    Bet the name Carol Kaye comes up in this post sooner or later.........oh poo...... I just did it...
    :confused: :meh: :meh:
  6. I remember always being blown away by the Motown bass lines when I was a kid. I remember our singer back then saying "they must have the best bunch of bass players around.." - we assumed these tracks were by many different players.

    On most of the early Motown recordings no credits were listed for the musicians, just the vocalists and songwriters. It's interesting listening to Rocco's interview on his "Live at Bass Day 1998" video. He says his influences included "Jamerson, Duck, those guys - of course back then we didn't always know who they were, we're just finding out now.."

    Thank goodness that Standing in the Shadows of Motown was done - finally some real recognition (if not financial) for the cats involved. (Bob Babbit is right in the pocket as well!!)
  7. savagelucy


    Apr 27, 2002
    FWIW I believe he was an Aquarius, and it's said that most aquarians think 50 years ahead of their time.

    I'm an aquarius too, and Jameson's always the example of a "famous aquarius". well, at least in music magazines. :D :D
  8. DougD

    DougD Bassman7654

    Sep 19, 2002
    North Las Vegas NV
    Although JJ was THE man, his flaw was his unwillingness to change to suit the times. It's been said that he refused to play certain styles and use certain equipment options. This left him in on the outside looking in so to speak. I don't know what caused his drinking problems, but lots of musician then and now have drink and drug problems.
  9. gweimer


    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    It wasn't just Jamerson that took so long to get recognized. I'll bet that the same applies to everyone who worked as a session player, whether it be The Funk Brothers (Joe Messina, Earl Hines, et al), Motown (Dennis Coffey, Bob Babbit, etc.), Muscle Shoals (Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn), during those years. As mentioned, it was the solo artist that tended to get the focus, and the session guys were the craftsmen used to flesh out that star's sound. The thing is that they did it so well that we are still marvelling and discussing them some 30+ years after the legacy faded.
  10. chris griffiths

    chris griffiths

    Aug 20, 2002
    nashville tn
    Endorsing artist: Gallien Krueger
    Well I think the most beautiful part of James' playing is the fact that it's not as apparent as Marcus or louis Johnson or Vic wooten unless your really listening. and Yet it brings so much to the song without being the forefront. So maybe he didn't get the recognition because the bass line was so perfect that it was seen as part of a united sound and not given special attention. Except maybe by bass players. Jamerson is my hero everything I've ever played came from him. He's my counterpoint to every McCartney arguement I've ever been in. I think his drinking more or less came from the long hours he had to work without his family and just hard times. I mean for what he did he wasn't payed much. Also James couldn't find work out west because the motown california sound is very different from the motown detroit sound. and it's not a james sound, it's more like "the papa was a rolling stone" sound and moving up into "isn't she lovely" and "I wish". James playing was just not as appropriate it was in detroit. It was too busy and didn't have that "cool" sound that the west coast production teams liked
  11. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    Laugh at me if you must, but after I saw "Standing In the Shadows.....", I felt like crying after hearing what JJ did to attend the Motown Anniversary Show. He had to buy a ticket from a scalper. Also, another thing that tugged at the ol' heart strings was when his wife told a story about him. When she said that one day he was playing some old Motown records crying, and she asked him what wrong. He repleid, "I did it! That's ME on those hits! I really did play on those songs!" Man, it gets me just thinking about it. As for whether or not alcohol effected his life, does killing him count?
  12. "He's my counterpoint to every McCartney arguement I've ever been in. "

    If Motown's music was modal I'd agree with you.
  13. chris griffiths

    chris griffiths

    Aug 20, 2002
    nashville tn
    Endorsing artist: Gallien Krueger
    I hear modes in Motown but maybe thats just me. I think a lot of what got james in his position is he just had self destructive tendencies. which were amplified by alcohol but drinking or not he still had these tendencies. and I think he had no way of controlling them and thats how he ended up with no sessions and no label and buying a ticket to a motown anniversary. It's fairly sad when people with such talent can find no middle ground in their life
  14. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    Yah as sad as this sounds, i didn't even know who Jamerson was before I started hanging around this site. I have found all kinds of great "new" influences for my playing on here..TB keeps payin me back :D
  15. Oh I agree with your assessment of Jamerson's lifestyle and what it did to him. I also believe that you just can't compare Paul with him because after Paul's first initial influence from Jamerson (which he lavishly credits by the way) he went off to create bass lines that had to do with his style of music - which was a LOT more modal than Motown and certainly far different in texture. Not that it was better or worse as far as music goes - just different.

    If I was running the R&R Hall of Fame Jamerson would have made it for Bernadette alone. Every time I hear that line it just knocks my socks off.

    I think you can say this about Jamerson too - he was a genius that didn't put up with fools. Part of the reason he was such a great bass player is that he found a sound and a groove and he didn't compromise it. That philosophy spilled over into his personal life too and could rub folks the wrong way.
  16. chris griffiths

    chris griffiths

    Aug 20, 2002
    nashville tn
    Endorsing artist: Gallien Krueger
    yeah I don't really like Paul but I can see what your saying and I just think it's incredible that if you look at john paul jones, Enthwhistle, Jack bruce, and Paul McCartney you can trace them all back to Jamerson. I'm at Berklee so I push Jamerson in every discussion I have. I think he is just a need to know guy no matter what you play.
  17. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    I'd put him in for "What's Happening Brother" and "My Mistake".
  18. I think that is one of the things that made him so unique. He had a specific way of playing in his head, and in his heart, and he stuck to that. That's one of the many things I respect about the man.

    My bass teacher actually did the same thing. He told me it was such an emotional thing to see the Funk Brothers playing and just seeing the portraits of the deseased brothers. I can't wait for the DVD's. I think it may give me even more inspiration to play the bass, and play it as well as Jamerson.

    Same here. I wish I had though. I've now a converted "Jamerson freak", as Basil Farrington would put it.

    It gives me great pride to know that a player of Jamerson's stature could be so successful and be so great at the same time.
  19. Fire-Starter


    Aug 11, 2002
    I have heard it said that part of his failure was that he did not want to change his style, BUT COME ON NOW!!! after decades people are saying how great he was, people were looking for the sound that Motown had? so why would Motown go trying to change to something someone else has, when that someone else is trying to get what Motown already had! which tells me that maybe a change was not needed at all, hey if it works, dont fix it! what if motown would have just stayed in Detroit and stayed with what they did?

    BTW Woodchuck,,a very touching story about him having buy a ticket off someone to attend something he was an anchor and probably a cornerstone to.

    Question, I understand his bass was stolen before he died, and was never found, what do you think it would be worth today, and does anyone know the serial# of his ax:bassist:
  20. Bass Player Magazine is still searching for the actual bass for anyone who has any info on it. They want to donate it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In return, they will give you a free Fender 62' RI P Bass, no questions asked. The bass would be inspected by James Jamerson Jr., the only person who would know about all of the little nicks and dings and characteristics of the bass. I really hope someone finds it. It has "Funk Machine" carved into the heel of the neck. I don't think anyone knows what the serial number is, which makes it that much more of a pain. I think, other than the first Fender, that it'd be worth the most money. That's my 2 cents though...

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