What's Going On bass lesson: how to play James Jamerson’s iconic bassline on the Marvin Gaye classic

Nick Campbell and James Jamerson
(Image credit: Nick Campbell Destroys)

Ever since Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On hit the airwaves back in 1971, James Jamerson has remained one of the most revered bass players in the instrument's history. So much so that you voted him the third greatest bass player of all time in our poll to find the 100 greatest bass players of all time.

A first-call studio bassist for Detroit’s Motown Records, Jamerson remained largely anonymous until later in his career. He was finally credited on a major release for Marvin Gaye's What’s Going On and acknowledged as "the incomparable James Jamerson” on the album's sleeve notes.

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Nick Wells

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.