The Music Lounge

The Ace of Bass-Louis Johnson

Louis Johnson dies aged sixty….

brothers_johnsonThere can be few musicians out there with a CV to match that of Louis Johnson who passed away on May 21st 2015 aged sixty. One half of the funk band The Brothers Johnson he was one of the leading bass players of the last forty years. Nicknamed ‘Thunder Thumbs’ for his speed and attacking playing style, he was one of the founding fathers of the slap-style of rhythm bass playing and his contribution to disco, soul and funk is incalculable.

Imagine as a musician being asked who you have played with and on what tracks or albums and being abe to reply; Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Off the Wall and Dangerous albums (inc Billie Jean) George Benson’s Give Me the Night album, Stevie Wonder, Stevie Nicks, Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, The Carpenters, Donna Summer, Earl Klugh, The Jacksons, Paul McCartney, Sister Sledge, Quincy Jones, Phil Collins, The Temptations and dozens of others. Imagine being a bass player and asked to appear on an album with arguably the greatest bassist of them all, Stanley Clarke? He was that good.

But it was back in 1975 when brothers George and Louis formed The Brothers Johnson that American R&B and Funk audiences would welcome a bright new talent and with it a string of platinum selling albums until they disbanded in 1982. Their music crossed over into disco as well as attracting wider, European audiences with club anthems such as ‘Stomp!’, ‘Strawberry Letter 23’ ‘I’ll be Good to You’ and ‘Ride-O-Rocket’. Johnson and his music has been sampled the music world over and this particular blogger will forever remember getting ready to go out on a 1980s summer’s evening with Johnson’s music as the soundtrack. There are countless tracks one could choose to remember him by but I chose this. If you can get past Jackson’s sublime performance and hone in on the opening bass line then you’ll go some way in understanding what a great bass player brings to a performance.

Whatever your musical preference this is a truly brilliant piece of song writing, performed by a late genius with the help of another huge talent…

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