Main | Monday, June 01, 2015

Funk Bassist Louis Johnson Dies At Age 60

Via the New York Times:
Louis Johnson, a bassist who had a string of funk hits with the Brothers Johnson and worked as a session musician for Quincy Jones, notably on the Michael Jackson albums “Off the Wall” and “Thriller,” was found dead on May 21 at his home in Las Vegas. He was 60. His death was confirmed by Jeff Mullen, the Brothers Johnson’s manager, who said the cause had not been determined. Mr. Johnson, who also sang, and his brother George, who played guitar and sang, began working with Mr. Jones in the mid-1970s. Mr. Jones mentored the brothers, and they collaborated for many years. “I considered Louis a core member of my production team,” Mr. Jones wrote in a tribute on his website. Nicknamed Thunder Thumbs (George was known as Lightning Licks), Mr. Johnson created a driving sound with his percussive, string-slapping technique. He was an early popularizer of the electric slap-bass style in funk, along with Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone. The Brothers Johnson had a number of platinum albums in the 1970s and ’80s. Their singles “I’ll Be Good to You,” “Stomp!” and “Strawberry Letter 23” all reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart and made the pop Top 10.
It was Louis Johnson's memorable bassline that propelled Billie Jean into a global smash and helped make Thriller the best-selling album of all time. Below are my two favorite Brothers Johnson hits, the first of which I owned on a 45 that came with a strawberry-scented sleeve.

(Tipped by JMG reader Mark)

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