Let’s Start 2017 With a Trip to Motown to Visit Bob Babbitt

It is oddly prophetic that my last post, four months ago, covered the band Hiatus Kaiyote.  Hiatus indeed!  Well Happy New Year to all, and allow me to begin the year with a trip way back to the early 70’s.

A few months ago I watched the movie “Searching for Sugar Man” for the first time.  Hard to believe it took me so long to see the 2012 Academy Award winner – thanks for the DVD, Margaret!  It’s a great flick if you haven’t seen it, and one little snippet from the movie is the basis for this post.

It seems that on Sixto Rodriquez’s first album “Cold Fact”, which included the track “Sugar Man” from which the movie title was taken, his producer hired some top notch Motown session men to back Sixto’s vocals and guitar.  Among them was bassist Bob Babbitt.

Babbitt was part of The Funk Brothers, studio musicians who backed most of Motown’s hits from 1959 to 1972.   A little research on Babbitt reveals that he played some of the most recognizable bass tracks in history, including those on “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” by Stevie Wonder, “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)” and “Just My Imagination” by the Temptations, “War” by Edwin Starr, “The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” by Marvin Gaye, and many more.  In all he played on more than 200 Top 40 hits including 25 gold and platinum records.

Below is more than my usual number of videos, but turn up the bass and appreciate  Babbitt’s genius.  You’ll wonder what these songs would be without him.

Babbitt passed away in 2012 at age 74, some years after winning a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.  The 2002 documentary on The Funk Brothers, “Standing in the Shadow of Motown” is now on my “to watch” list.

Holland’s Bo Saris – Recalling the Soulful Falsettos of Motown

Our blogger friends at Read and Hear surfaced an artist with a retro-soul-falsetto style that recalls Smokey Robinson and Curtis Mayfield. You can read a bit about Bo Saris in this Billboard article. Like many “new” artists, he’s been working and recording for years.

You won’t see Bo in the video for “She’s on Fire”; instead you’ll see clips of Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield and Bo’s library of stripper movies.  “The Addict” was released recently, and this one hides Bo behind clever animation.

To see Bo without any artiface, visual or otherwise, watch this live, unplugged performance of “Tender”.

Since Bo paid homage to Curtis Mayfield in the video for “She’s on Fire”, let’s do the same, and then let’s listen to Smokey Robinson and Daryl Hall having fun with a Miracles classic.

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