Joe Osborn, bassist for the legendary group of studio musicians known as The Wrecking Crew, has died of pancreatic cancer, Variety reports. He was 81.
Osborn played on well-known recordings by Simon & Garfunkel, The Mamas & the Papas, The 5th Dimension, The Carptners, Neil Diamond, and many others. Here’s more from the Variety article:
Originally a guitarist, Osborn played the electric bass with a pick which enabled his parts to cut through on recordings — even when played on tiny transistor radios.
But producers featured him because his floating slides, hooks, and counterpoints added the distinctive energy and bounce that distinguished L.A.’s hits. He influenced that fruitful period as much as his bass-playing contemporaries including James Jamerson at Motown, Duck Dunn at Stax, and John Entwistle with The Who.
“Joe’s sound is as distinct and unique as Erroll Garner’s, Wes Montgomery’s, or even Ella Fitzgerald’s,” drummer Hal Blaine – who frequently teamed with Osborn – told Downbeat magazine in 1972.
Studio musicians’ influence is often benchmarked by the number of hits on which they appeared. The Shreveport, La. native’s run included 16 No. 1 songs, starting with Nelson’s “Travelin’ Man,” a song written for – and rejected by — Sam Cooke that Osborn heard and brought to Nelson’s attention.
After that, Osborn drove chart-toppers from performers including Johnny Rivers (“Poor Side of Town,” “Secret Agent Man”), Barry McGuire (“Eve of Destruction”), Gary Lewis & the Playboys (“This Diamond Ring”), the Mamas & The Papas (“Monday, Monday”), Glen Campbell (“Gentle On My Mind”), the Turtles (“You Baby”), the Association (“Windy”), the Fifth Dimension (“Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”), the Cowsills (“The Rain, The Park and Other Things”), Richard Harris (“MacArthur Park”), Tommy Roe (“Dizzy”), Seals & Crofts (“Summer Breeze”), Neil Diamond (“Holly Holy”), Helen Reddy (“I Am Woman”), America (“Tin Man”), Barbra Streisand (“Stoney End”), England Dan and John Ford Coley (“Nights Are Forever”), the Partridge Family (“I Think I Love You”), the Grass Roots (“Temptation Eyes”), and Olivia Newton John (“Don’t Stop Belevin’”).
You can read more here. Rest in peace, Joe.
Listen to some of the hits Joe played on: