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Bob Babbitt dies at 74

Bass great backed Motown artists and many others
Bob Babbitt in 1974 (photo courtesy of Ed Stasium)

Bob Babbitt in 1974 (photo courtesy of Ed Stasium)

By Chris M. Junior

Bass guitarist Bob Babbitt, a latter-day member of the Motown Records house band The Funk Brothers who later played on notable recordings for other labels, died today (July 16) in Nashville, Tenn., the Detroit News reports. Babbitt, who had been battling brain cancer, was 74.

Babbitt’s Motown-related sessions included Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” The Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion” and Edwin Starr’s “War.”

Babbitt’s recordings also included Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia,” released in 1973 on the Buddah label. While at Motown, Babbitt had developed a working relationship with producer Tony Camillo. Babbitt joined guitarist Jeff Mironov and drummer Andrew Smith to record the core instrumental tracks for "Midnight" at Camillo’s New Jersey studio.

“That song always stands out because it won a Grammy,” Babbitt told Goldmine in a 2008 interview. “I had played on about 10 or 12 records that were nominated for a Grammy, but ‘Midnight’ actually won it. I had a guy tell me when I moved to Nashville that people down here were looking for resumés. So I sent some out to people, and I included ‘Midnight Train to Georgia.’ I had a few producers tell me, ‘You played on that? You don’t need to put anything else on your resumé.’”

Today in a Facebook post, Ed Stasium, who engineered and mixed the “Midnight” sessions, called Babbitt “the best bass player and friend anyone could ever have.”