Renowned jazz bassist and R&B singer, Michael Henderson, has died at 71 on Tuesday, July 19, in his home in Atlanta, Georgia. The news was confirmed on his official Facebook page. Though a cause of death was not mentioned, the statement did note that he passed away peacefully. He was reportedly admitted to Emory University Hospital two weeks ago for an undisclosed illness.
The full statement reads, “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…”
Henderson was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and by the early ’60s, he moved to Detroit and began his career as a session musician. He was one of the pioneering bassists during the fusion era of jazz, funk, and soul, working with Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, the Dramatics, The Chi-Lites, and more.
While touring with Stevie Wonder in 1970, Miles Davis saw him performing at the Copacabana in New York. Allegedly, Davis told Wonder, “I’m taking your f**king bassist.” Henderson went on to work with Davis for nearly seven years and was featured on albums including Jack Johnson, Live-Evil, and Agharta.
Henderson went on to pursue a solo career, and his funk riffs and songs were widely covered. His final solo album, Bedtime Stories, was released in 1986.
Bootsy Collins was one of many who paid tribute to Henderson via social media. The funk icon wrote, “Dangit, we lost one of the Real One’s our Bass brother Mr. Michael Henderson (July 7, 1951-July 19,2022) was an American bass guitarist and vocalist. He was known for his work with Miles Davis, Dramatic’s, Stevie Wonder & many others. Prayers going out to his family & friends!”
Listen to one of Henderson’s most notable vocal performances on the 1976 Norman Connors-produced hit, “You Are My Starship.”