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Funk Brothers Bassist Bob Babbitt Dead at 74

(Photo by Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images)

Bob Babbitt, the Motown studio bassist who played on hits including Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ “Tears of a Clown” and the Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion,” died yesterday in Nashville after suffering complications from brain cancer, his spokesperson confirmed to Rolling Stone. He was 74.

Born on November 26th, 1937, Babbitt grew up in Pittsburgh before moving to Detroit, where he began playing bass in the late Fifties. He joined Stevie Wonder’s touring band in 1966. One year later, Babbitt was invited to join Motown’s house band the Funk Brothers, after Motown bassist James Jamerson broke his hand. In his new role, Babbitt added thick, funky basslines to hits by the Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder’s “Sign, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” and “We Can Work it Out,” and half of Marvin Gaye’s 1971 LP, What’s Going On.

According to Rolling Stone,  he scored 25 gold and platinum records in his career and played on more than 200 Top 40 hits, ranging from Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia” to Elton John’s Mama Can’t Buy You Love.”

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