The 10 Best R&B Bassist Of All Time

10. Louis Johnson

April 13, 1955 – May 21, 2015

Louis Johnson (April 13, 1955 – May 21, 2015) was an American bass guitarist. Johnson was best known for his group The Brothers Johnson and his session playing on several hit albums of the 1970s and 1980s, including the best selling album of all time, Thriller.

Due to his distinctive style, Johnson was nicknamed “Thunder-Thumbs”. His slap bass playing arrived soon after Larry Graham brought it into the mainstream, and both are considered the “grandfathers” of slap-bass playing.

9. Bootsy Collins

October 26, 1951

Rising to prominence with James Brown in the early 1970s, and later with Parliament-Funkadelic, Collins’s driving bass guitar and humorous vocals established him as one of the leading names in funk.

He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted in 1997 with 15 other members of Parliament-Funkadelic.

8. Chuck Rainey  

June 17, 1940

An American bass guitarist who has performed and recorded with many well-known acts, including Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan, and Quincy Jones.

Rainey’s style has always been to provide a rhythmic and melodic bottom that works with the drummer for the benefit of the song. His books on bass study refer to a “sensitivity to music” and a dedication to studying the fundamentals of music theory. While his “sideman” philosophy of bass has not brought him the level of recognition of star players such as Jaco Pastorius, Rainey is by far more recorded than his more famous contemporaries.

7. Meshell Ndegeocello

August 29, 1968

An American singer-songwriter, rapper, and bassist.  Ndegeocello honed her skills on the D.C. go-go circuit in the late 1980s with the bands Prophecy, Little Bennie and the Masters, and Rare Essence She unsuccessfully tried out for Living Colour’s bassist position, vacated in 1992 by Muzz Skillings. Going solo, she was one of the first artists to sign with Maverick Records, where she released her debut album, Plantation Lullabies

6. Bernard Edwards

October 31, 1952 – April 18, 1996

An American bass player, singer, songwriter and record producer, known primarily for his work in disco music with guitarist Nile Rodgers, with whom he co-founded Chic. In 2017, Edwards was selected as the 53rd greatest bassist of all time by Bass Player magazine.

His bass line from Chic hit “Good Times” has become one of the most copied pieces of music in history, and had a huge influence on musicians of many genres when released and was the inspiration for “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen.

5. Nathan East  

December 8, 1955

An American jazz, R&B, and rock bass player and vocalist. With more than 2,000 recordings, East is considered one of the most recorded bass players in the history of music.

Nathan East has said his early influences included Charles Mingus, Ray Brown and Ron Carter on upright bass; and James Jamerson, Paul McCartney and Chuck Rainey on electric bass.

4. Verdine White

July 25, 1951

An American musician, best known as the longtime bassist for Earth, Wind & Fire. White was placed at No. 27 on Bass Player’s list of The 100 Greatest Bass Players of All Time.

Verdine says he learned everything about the bass guitar from Louis Satterfield, and some of his early bass influences were James Jamerson,

In November 2008 White was presented with Bass Player magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award by Nathan East.

3. Marcus Miller

June 14, 1959

An American jazz composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist, best known as a bass guitarist. He has worked with trumpeter Miles Davis, pianist Herbie Hancock, singer Luther Vandross, and saxophonist David Sanborn.

Marcus Miller has played bass on over 500 recordings including those of Luther Vandross, Grover Washington Jr., Roberta Flack, Carly Simon, McCoy Tyner, Weldon Irvine, Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol. He won the “Most Valuable Player” award (given by NARAS to recognize studio musicians) three years in a row and was subsequently awarded “player emeritus” status and retired from eligibility.

2. Larry Graham

August 14, 1946

An American bassist and singer, both with the psychedelic soul/funk band Sly and the Family Stone, and as the founder and frontman of Graham Central Station.

Larry Graham is credited with the invention of the slapping technique, which radically expanded the tonal palette of the bass, although he himself refers to the technique as “thumpin’ and pluckin’ ”.

  1. James Jamerson January 29, 1936 – August 2, 1983

An American bass player. He was the uncredited bassist on most of the Motown Records hits in the 1960s and early 1970s (Motown did not list session musician credits on their releases until 1971), and is now regarded as one of the most influential bass players in modern music history. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. As a session musician he played on twenty-three Billboard Hot 100 number one hits, as well as fifty-six R&B number one hits.

In its special issue “The 100 Greatest Bass Players” in 2017, Bass Player magazine ranked Jamerson number one and the most influential bass guitarist. In 2011, Jamerson ranked third in the “20 Most Underrated Bass Guitarists” in Paste magazine.

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