Watch an Animated Visualization of the Bass Line for the Motown Classic, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

Jamerson is the Schoenberg of getting from the I chord to the IV chord. He’s algorithmically generating a new pattern every phrase…[He] belongs with Bach, Debussy and Mozart.

- Jack Stratton

Sideman James Jamerson, Paul McCartney’s musical hero and a co-author of the Motown sound, is a great illustration of the bass’ importance in pop and R&B history.

He kept a funky beat for such artists as Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, and the Supremes. His low notes helped the harmonies sing.

Jack Stratton, leader of the modern American funk band, Vulfpeck, named Jamerson to his Holy Trinity of Bass, along with Chic’s Bernard Edwards and Sly and the Family Stone’s Larry Graham.




(Joe Dart, Vulfpeck’s bassist, is a pretty hot ticket too.)

Stratton's reverence extended to a side project in which he visually plots some of Jamerson’s savoriest baselines.

Check out the craggy peaks and valleys on Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell's famous rendition of Ashford & Simpson’s "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," above.

No wonder it’s the most listened to isolated bass track on No Treble, the online magazine for bass players.

All together now:

Stratton’s visualizations of the Jameson lines for Stevie Wonder’s "I Was Made to Love Her" and "For Once In My Life" are pretty mesmerizing too.

Learn more about Jamerson’s highly influential bass technique in Dr. Lick’s Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson.

Related Content:

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What Makes Flea Such an Amazing Bass Player? A Video Essay Breaks Down His Style

The Story of the Bass: New Video Gives Us 500 Years of Music History in 8 Minutes

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her solo show Nurse!, in which one of Shakespeare’s best loved female characters hits the lecture circuit to set the record straight premieres in June at The Tank in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.


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