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Michael Henderson, Bassist For Miles Davis and Accomplished R&B Singer, Dead at 71

JPRoche, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Acclaimed bassist and R&B vocalist Michael Henderson, who had been admitted to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta in early July for an undisclosed illness, is dead. He was 71.

The jazz legend's family broke the news on his official Facebook page Thursday.

“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…," the post read in part. "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 …”

Considered to be one of the most notable bass guitarists of the jazz fusion era, Henderson played and recorded with some of R&B's greatest acts —including Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. He is perhaps best known, however, for his work with jazz titan Miles Davis.

After a chance meeting with the superstar in the early 1970s, while he was playing for Marvin Gaye, Henderson teamed up with him in a partnership that lasted nearly a decade. His work helped set the pace on Davis' early fusion albums, "Jack Johnson" (1971), "Live-Evil" (1971) and "Agharta" (1975).

The bassist later recalled that he was playing for Wonder at New York City’s Copacabana when Davis made a bold proclamation after the show that changed the course of his career.

"He said to Stevie, “I’m taking your f—ing bassist.” Henderson told All About Jazz. "I don’t think Stevie heard him because he talked like that (Henderson’s best Miles impression). The next thing I knew, I got a call from Miles and I asked my friend, “What do you know about this Miles guy?” He said, “If Miles Davis is calling you, you better get your bass guitar and run.” I showed up at his house, he flew me in that day. Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, and John McLaughlin were in the house along with Herbie. They were getting ready to do a session the next day, which was Jack Johnson. That was my first record with Miles, Jack Johnson in 1970."
Born in Yazoo City, Mississippi, Henderson was an accomplished vocalist as well. He moved to Detroit in the '60s to begin his career as a session musician, but by the mid-'70s he began releasing solo albums of his own.

His soulful tenor vocals during guest spots on 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,” grabbed the attention of music fans nationwide.

"You Are My Starship" reached number five on Billboard's US R&B chart and number one on the Jazz chart. Henderson's solo debut, "Gold," was also released that year, earning him a hit with a cover of the Dramatics’ “Be My Girl.”

Henderson went on to produce seven more albums, scoring hits like “Take Me I’m Yours," “In the Nighttime,” “Wide Receiver (Part 1)” and “Can’t We Fall in Love Again” along the way. His final solo album was 1986’s "Bedtime Stories."

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