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Bob Babbitt: The Shadows of Motown

Published: 7/18/2012
You may never have heard the name Bob Babbitt before today, and you may not recognize his face… but we can guarantee you've heard his music.

 This undated photo provided by Universal Music shows the Funk Brothers, from left, Uriel Jones, Eddie Willis, and Bob Babbitt. Babbitt, a prominent Motown studio musician and Funk Brothers bassist, died Monday, July 16, 2012 in Nashville, Tenn. He was 74. (AP Photos/Universal Music, Diamond Photography)
This undated photo provided by Universal Music shows the Funk Brothers, from left, Uriel Jones, Eddie Willis, and Bob Babbitt. Babbitt, a prominent Motown studio musician and Funk Brothers bassist, died Monday, July 16, 2012 in Nashville, Tenn. He was 74. (AP Photos/Universal Music, Diamond Photography)


Babbitt was a bassist for the Motown powerhouse band the Funk Brothers. Never heard of them either? That's because they aren't headliners – the Funk Brothers are session musicians, the skilled players who can be heard behind the singers and groups we know so well. Session musicians don't have a loyalty to a single artist – they play where they're needed, adding music behind a soloist's voice or bolstering the sound of an established band. They rarely become superstars, but their work is heard every day in the music of the great names we do know. Smokey Robinson? Bob Babbitt played bass for him. Marvin Gaye? Yes, him too. Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Spinners, and even Jimi Hendrix? Yes, yes and yes.

Babbitt died this week, leaving behind a discography of some of the finest songs of the 1960s, '70s and beyond. Here are just a few of the classics that showcase Babbitt and the Funk Brothers.

The Temptations – "Just My Imagination"



Stevie Wonder – "Signed, Sealed, Delivered"



Jim Croce – "I Got a Name"



And here's a rare chance to see Babbitt at work. The Funk Brothers were immortalized in the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown. It was a chance for them to step out of those shadows – you'll see Babbitt playing bass at center stage.



Written by Linnea Crowther

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