DETROIT — Motown bass player Bob Babbitt, whose work lit up a host of hits in the ’60s and ’70s, died Monday morning in Nashville, friends said. He was 74.

Babbitt had been diagnosed in early 2011 with an inoperable brain tumor. He was recently readmitted to the hospital after a year of home hospice care.

As part of the renowned Funk Brothers studio band at Motown Records in the late ’60s, Babbitt’s thick, fluid bass lines drove the groove on songs by the Temptations (“Ball of Confusion”), Stevie Wonder (“Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours),” Rare Earth (“(I Know) I’m Losing You”), Smokey Robinson & the Miracles (“The Tears of a Clown”) and many others.

Like other members of Motown’s renowned Funk Brothers studio band, he often moonlighted for other labels and studios – including United Sound and Golden World – performing on tunes such as the Capitols’ “Cool Jerk,” the Parliaments’ “(I Wanna) Testify ” and Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold.”

Other work in the ’60s included sessions with burgeoning hometown star Bob Seger, at United Sound, and with rocker Jeff Beck – the first non-Motown act permitted to use the label’s West Grand Boulevard studio.

Like many studio musicians of the era, Babbitt wasn’t always publicly acknowledged for his work. It wasn’t uncommon for Babbitt’s role to be omitted – or even actively hidden – on record credits.

Like his fellow Funk Brothers, Babbitt at last got wider attention via the 2002 documentary “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” which chronicled the group’s work behind the scenes.

Babbitt, a Pittsburgh native who moved to Detroit as a teenager in the late ’50s, got his start on the Motor City music scene playing clubs with the popular local band the Royaltones.


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