Hilton Head performance honors Motown bassist James Jamerson

jpaprocki@islandpacket.comMarch 14, 2012 

  • The Island School Council for the Arts presents "The King of Motown Bass" at 7 p.m. March 15 and 16 at the Hilton Head Island High School Visual and Performing Arts Center, 70 Wilborn Road, Hilton Head Island. Donations of $5 for students and $10 for adults are suggested.

James Jamerson played on some of the most popular Motown records of all time, but he never took the spotlight.

A performance presented by the Island School Council for the Arts will look to give him some of the recognition he deserves.

"The King of Motown Bass" tells the life of the Edisto Island native who went on to become one of the most influential musicians of his era.

He played on The Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love," Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made To Love Her" and Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," among others. His jazzy bass style became the foundation for the Motown sound. Motown founder Berry Gordy was once quoted as calling him a "genius on the bass."

"King of Motown Bass" features more than 100 local elementary through high school students. It's a mix of song, dance and theater that follows Jamerson's life from the sea island to Detroit. He largely went uncredited on his Motown recordings, but started receiving more notoriety after his death in 1983. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

The project started when local dance instructor Patti Maurer started discussing projects with the Charleston Jazz Initiative, which had been looking to get Jamerson more recognition. The script is a collaboration between Maurer and Karen Chandler, co-principal of the initiative. Maurer teamed up with Hilton Head Island High School visual and performing arts teachers, along with other community members, to organize the show.

"I looked at it from a musical perspective and how the music of Motown really brought people together," Maurer said of the show. "I thought it'd be significant locally because it was (Jamerson's) gospel and jazz roots from South Carolina that he brought to Motown music. If it wasn't for him, Motown would be very different."

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