James Jamerson

January 29, 1936 – August 2, 1983

For a large portion of James Jamerson’s hall of fame career, he was unknown to most of the general public. Despite playing bass on some of the biggest hits of the 1960s, Jamerson – a studio musician at Motown’s Hitsville USA studios – remained officially uncredited until 1971. The in-house studio musicians at Motown referred to themselves simply as “The Funk Brothers” and Jamerson’s jazz stylings were among their most notable qualities.

James Jamerson was born in South Carolina in a deeply musical family. He moved to Detroit with his mom when he was 16 and started playing the double bass. He grew as a player in local jazz circles and eventually landed a spot as a session musician at Berry Gordy’s Hitsville. Jamerson spent the next decade-plus grooving on iconic hits like Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (with Tammi Terrell), “It’s the Same Old Song” and “Standing in the Shadows of Love” by the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life” and “Love Child” by the Supremes along with countless others.

Jamerson followed Motown’s move to Los Angeles in the 1970s and played on many, many records for other labels as well. He is routinely mentioned as one of the most influential bass players in rock and roll. Despite the anonymity of his early career, Jamerson is cited as a direct influence by generations of players that followed. He played on 23 No. 1 hits (second only to Paul McCartney) and was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.  But, Jamerson had demons. He died in L.A. at the age of 47 from complications of cirrhosis after years of alcoholism.

Burial

Woodlawn Cemetery – Detroit, MI

Specific Location

Section 37, Plot 265, Grave 4 – From the intersection of Sections 37, 38 and 39, look directly west into Section 37 and walk toward a clump of trees and a garden monument. James’ marker will be right before you get to this garden.

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