Instead of going through the standard Michael Jackson albums, I spent the evening listening to every Jackson 5 album I have (ie. most of them). Most people are probably familiar with the group’s hit singles but there are countless gems lurking away in the albums that the Motown label pumped out during the early years: Don’t Let Your Baby Catch You (great harmonizing on the outro), One More Chance and Who’s Loving You are just a few examples that showcase Jackson’s talent and intensity in perhaps a more raw way than his later work.
But let me hijack our collective mourning of Jackson by drawing attention to another person who died a bit too young: James Jamerson, the bassist who played on some — if not most — of the early Jackson 5 hits.
Jamerson was one of the first musicians to do something interesting with pop music basslines, inspiring pretty much every bassist since. Sadly, he faded into obscurity and died at the age of 47 — a death probably related to alcoholism.
Here’s my favourite example of the young Michael Jackson singing on top of Jamerson’s playing. If you mentally isolate the bassline when you listen, it’s almost like hearing a second song. Blissful.
RIP, the two of you.