Bob Babbitt, one of many in music who broke the color barrier has died of brain cancer in Nashville. He was 74.
Bob came to Nashville in the mid 80s, and couldn’t even get work on demonstration records when he was the bass player on ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’ as well as ‘Ball of Confusion,’ ‘Second That Emotion,’ and played with every Beatle as well as Yoko Ono, Robert Palmer, Blondie, George Clinton, and a plethora of “THE” in crowd. He also played on my record with Ben Vereen as well as my demos.
Normally journalists don’t write in the first person, but Bob is an exception. In the mid 80s, we were the closest of friends. Not only did we play music together and write music together, but we traveled together. We were in Detroit together in 1987, and I was in Rome, Italy doing a soundtrack with Ben Vereen, while Bob was in Milan, Italy with Robert Palmer. My ex husband and Bob and I met up in Venice, Italy and flew back to Nashville with Bob.
A gentle giant, Bob took the place of the great James Jamerson on bass, and had a way of playing a thumping, funky style that fit right in with “the Funk Brothers,” the men behind all the Motown hits.
After the documentary, “Standing In The Shadows of Motown,” suddenly everyone in Nashville wanted to work with him. Hey, that’s the music (and movie) biz. So I made Bob promise me to take me to see this documentary with him. I think all his friends were asking the same thing, because, by the time we went he knew all the lines in the film. Well, I must tell you, objectively, if you’re a music fan, you must rent this film about Motown and the players who made the Motown Sound. But as a friend, I cried like a little baby throughout the film, watching him on screen, finally getting his props, and watching Bob during the race riots in Detroit, and how the Funk Brothers had his back and he had theirs. It’s a very emotional part of the film, anyway, and watching it with him, the tracks of my tears(just one more hit he played on) were leaving a trail from the theatre seats to the car.
Bob and I wrote a song titled ‘I’m So Glad God Gave You To Me.’ That seems so ironic now. I’m so glad God gave Bob to me and Tex and all his friends in Nashville and Detroit, and eventually around the world, where he was known to be second only to Paul McCartney as a funky bass player.
He leaves behind a wife and children and grandchildren, as well as all the studios around the world. That Funk, known as The Funk Brothers, wouldn’t have been without that bass playing of Bob Babbitt.
Bob, Nashville and musicians around in studios are mourning tonight and listening to the one and only, distinctive funky bass playing of Bob Babbitt.
Our time was so short, even though it was over 20 years, it seems like yesterday, and we always had a good laugh.
I’m So Glad God Gave You To Me,Bob. Me, and millions of music lovers who never met you, but knew every note of your life that melted into their lives when they heard the beginning of ‘Midnight Train To Georgia.’ You will be missed.