“Marvin Gaye was used to hearing James Jamerson, so he had me overdub a second bass part to fill out the original track”: An untold story from Motown’s Studio A. How Bob Babbitt's '65 P-Bass drove Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues

Portrait of Marvin Gaye & Bass player Bob Babbitt
(Image credit: Getty Images)

By 1971, Bob Babbitt was one weary Funk Brother. Motown sessions were running at 7am, 11am and 3pm, while the production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland held 7pm, 11pm and 3am calls. Little did Babbitt know, however, that his finger fatigue would play a key role in one of the classic sub hooks of the ‘70s.

But first, the backstory: in January 1971, Marvin Gaye began recording his masterpiece, What's Going On. Politically charged and groundbreaking both musically and socially, the work has since been hailed as arguably the finest soul LP side ever made, and it's even been listed as one of the top five all-time albums in any genre.

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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.