“You played on Midnight Train to Georgia? You don’t need no other credits!” How Bob Babbitt bolstered a ‘70s soul classic with a touch of James Jamerson

Bass player Bob Babbitt poses during a private photo shoot on April 20, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Acknowledged as James Jamerson’s understudy and eventual successor at Motown, the late Bob Babbitt appeared on over 200 Top 40 hits, including The Capitols’ Cool Jerk, Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours, and Marvin Gaye’s Mercy, Mercy, Me (the Ecology). New York can also claim Babbitt as one of its own thanks to session work for the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Robert Palmer, The Spinners and Frank Sinatra.

In fact, New York (actually New Jersey) was home to one of Babbitt’s favourite studio dates: his broad shouldered bassline on Midnight Train to Georgia, a 1974 Grammy-winning hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips.

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Chris Jisi was Contributing Editor, Senior Contributing Editor, and Editor In Chief on Bass Player 1989-2018. He is the author of Brave New Bass, a compilation of interviews with bass players like Marcus Miller, Flea, Will Lee, Tony Levin, Jeff Berlin, Les Claypool and more, and The Fretless Bass, with insight from over 25 masters including Tony Levin, Marcus Miller, Gary Willis, Richard Bona, Jimmy Haslip, and Percy Jones.