James Jamerson's bass line on "Darling Dear"

“Darling Dear” as played by the Jackson 5 “Third Album” (Motown, 1970)
Download the full pdf transcription of Jamerson’s bass line here

Songwriters: Wikipedia credits Berry Gordy’s brothers George and Robert as well as Allen Story as the songwriters. However, given that both the Jackson 5’s greatest hits “I Want You Back” (1969) and “ABC” (1970) were also written and released by The Motown Cooperation leads one to believe that this same team would have written “Darling Dear.” Smokey Robinson followed up The Jackson 5 with a slower version of this song, also recorded with Jamerson on bass, on “Pocket Full of Miracles” (Tamla, 1970).

Jamerson in 1970: James’ life in 1970 was just short of a disaster. His addiction to alcohol made him incredibly unreliable both at home and in the studio. As a result, Motown began hiring bassists to cover when Jamerson could not be tracked down. Staff producers would often transcribe James’ playing and then write new parts in his style. The pressure and anxiety brought on by producers and new bass recruits honing in on his home turf launched the frustrated James Jamerson to new creative heights. His competitive side began to peak, and he would often change lines, improvising heavily and playing variations on written parts from the down-beat to the fade-out. Most staff producers wanted him gone, but Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson insisted that his playing was a key ingredient in achieving the “Motown Sound,” and would not allow him to be fired. By 1970, The Jackson 5 had already released two Billboard #1’s with “I Want You Back” and “ABC” without Jamerson on bass. “Darling Dear” is an example of Jamerson’s late style in full effect with fiery sixteenth-note syncopations buried deep inside countless line variations in almost every bar.

Slutsky, Allen “Standing in the Shadows of Motown” (Hal Leonard, 1989)
White, Adam and Ales, Barney “Motown: The Sound of Young America” (Thames & Hudson, 2016)

James in a mid-1970’s recording session out West.

James in a mid-1970’s recording session out West.

John Lauler