Michael Henderson, Bassist For Miles Davis and Stevie Wonder, Dies at 71

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Michael Henderson, who earned acclaim as an avant-garde bassist with Miles Davis and later as a hit R&B singer/songwriter/producer in his own right, has died. News of the 71-year-old’s death at his Atlanta home following an undisclosed illness was confirmed on his Facebook page.

The July 19 Facebook post reads in part: “Singer, Songwriter, Bass Innovator, Music Producer, Father and Son Michael Henderson has peacefully made his transition surrounded by family and loved ones today at his home, Atlanta Georgia… Bless his heart and soul… He touched the lives of many and returned that love through his many live concerts, music recordings, social media, interviews and incessant touring which he loved …”

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Born on July 7, 1951 in Yazoo City, Mississippi, Henderson first staked his claim as a teen wunderkind/session musician in Detroit in the ‘60s. In addition to touring with Stevie Wonder, Henderson played for many of the biggest Motown acts in the late ‘60s, including the Four Tops, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas and Gladys Knight & the Pips — as well as Aretha Franklin and the Dramatics.

In 2018’s Take Me I’m Yours: Michael Henderson – The Buddah Years Anthology, Henderson noted that he took up the bass guitar because of legendary Motown bassist James Jamerson. He also recalled meeting Miles Davis following a Wonder show at New York City’s Copacabana club in 1970. And that’s when Davis told Wonder, “I’m taking your f–king bassist.” Said Henderson in the liner notes, “I was shocked that he said that to Stevie.”

After immersing himself in jazz fusion during his nearly seven years with Davis, Henderson began flexing his wings as a singer/songwriter in the mid-’70s. His melodic tenor first attracted attention through guest spots on several of jazz drummer Norman Connors’ R&B hits: 1975’s “Valentine Love,” alongside singer Jean Carn, in addition to 1976’s “We Both Need Each Other” with Phyllis Hyman and “You Are My Starship.” Henderson’s solo stride began gaining momentum in 1976 as well, with a cover of the Dramatics’ hit “Be My Girl.” From there, his string of R&B hits between 1978-1986 included “Take Me I’m Yours” — his lone Hot 100 hit, peaking at No. 88 in 1978 — as well as “In the Nighttime,” “Wide Receiver (Part 1)” and “Can’t We Fall in Love Again” with Hyman.

In the years since then, Henderson remained a concert draw. Of his storied 50-year career, the bassist noted in his anthology: “This is what I do. I signed up for this some 50 years ago, but I’m a youngster compared to a lot of these guys who are still out there. Basically, we’re just big kids. And that thing that was in your eye then — that spirit — never leaves you.”

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