Louis E. Johnson (pictured right), founding member and one half of funk band The Brothers Johnson who is widely hailed as one of the greatest bass players who ever did it – died on Thursday at age 60.
The cause of death has not yet been determined, reports CNN.
A longtime collaborator with super producer Quincy Jones, Johnson appeared on Michael Jackson‘s “Billie Jean” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”
The Los Angeles-based Brothers Johnson, a group featuring Louis and his brother George, got their start backing up Quincy Jones before releasing their acclaimed, Jones-produced debut LP “Look Out for #1” in 1976.
Over the next five years, the Brothers Johnson racked up three Number One hits on the R&B charts: 1976’s “I’ll Be Good to You,” their 1977 cover of Shuggie Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23,” and 1980’s smash “Stomp!” (Their rendition of “Strawberry Letter 23” was later featured prominently in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.)
The Brothers Johnson’s 1980 album Light Up the Night, featuring “This Had to Be” co-written by Michael Jackson and featuring the King of Pop on background vocals, ascended to the top of the R&B album charts.
Boot- I simply cannot believe the news. Devastated. I love you so much. We did so much together and had such great times. #RIPLouisJohnson
— Quincy Jones (@QuincyDJones) May 22, 2015
Quincy Jones yesterday posted his full statement on his Facebook page:
Louis “Thunderthumbs” Johnson was one of the greatest bass players to ever pick up the instrument. As a member of the Brothers Johnson we shared decades of magical times working together in the studio and touring the world. From my albums “Body Heat” and “Mellow Madness”, to their platinum albums “Look Out for #1,” “Right On Time,” “Blam,” and “Light Up The Night,” which I produced, to Michael’s solo debut “Off the Wall,” I considered Louis a core member of my production team. He was a dear and beloved friend and brother. I will miss “Boot’s” presence and joy of life everyday. #RIPLouisJohnson
Rolling Stone reports that Johnson told Michael Jackson biographer Steve Knopper in 2013: “I’ve never been given parts to play in my whole life. I’m the most rare bass player in the whole world. No one ever gave me music paper to read; no one ever gave me anything to read. They tell me, ‘Here’s a track, play what you want.’ ”
Here, Johnson shreds a bass solo in a 1979 performance:
Rest in peace, sir.