Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bob Babbitt Nov. 26, 1937 - July 16, 2012 Funk Brothers Bass Player

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bob Babbitt Nov. 26, 1937 - July 16, 2012 Funk Brothers Bass Player

Article excerpt

Bob Babbitt, a Pittsburgh-born bassist for Motown Records and key accompanist to some of the recording studio's biggest stars, including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and the Temptations, died Monday at a hospice near his home in Nashville, Tenn. He was 74.

His wife, Ann Kreinar, confirmed the death and said the cause was a brain tumor.

Mr. Babbitt was part of a core group of Motown musicians nicknamed the Funk Brothers for their dazzling way with hook-laden rhythms. The group -- almost never credited on records -- included bassist James Jamerson, guitarists Robert White and Joe Messina, keyboardists Joe Hunter and Earl Van Dyke, and drummers Benny Benjamin, Richard Allen and Uriel Jones.

Along with Mr. Messina and fellow guitarist Dennis Coffey, Mr. Babbitt was one of the few white members among the predominantly African-American group. In the acclaimed 2002 documentary "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," which tells the saga of the Funk Brothers, Mr. Babbitt remarked, "There was such a closeness. When Martin Luther King died, they never expressed to me any kind of hostility. And I felt as sad as they did."

Mr. Babbitt came to Motown in 1967, when the label was shifting away from its shuffle and cha-cha-based rhythms into more syncopation and psychedelic soul. He credited Mr. Jamerson with bringing him to the label's staff. The two bassists met during sessions at Golden World, a studio that briefly competed with Motown in Detroit and was later purchased by Motown president Berry Gordy Jr.

Mr. Babbitt's bass playing was featured on Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "Tears of a Clown," Edwin Starr's "War," the Temptations' "Ball of Confusion," Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours."

In addition, his credits outside of the Motown studio included the Parliaments' "(I Wanna) Testify" (1967), the first national hit for George Clinton's P-Funk acts; the Capitols' "Cool Jerk" (1967) and pop singer Del Shannon's "Little Town Flirt" (1963)

Mr. Babbitt played solo for nearly 90 seconds on bass guitar on Mr. Coffey's funk instrumental "Scorpio" (1971), a Top 40 radio hit. …

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