Jamerson's Part on "Can't Help Myself" by the Four Tops

Since it was Mr. Jamerson's birthday recently, I thought it would be befitting to put up one of his famous bass lines. This is what he plays on "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)".

Surprisingly, this song is not in the "Standing In The Shadow Of Motown" book of transcriptions, which is a little weird, but hey, that means I can put it up here.

The song is very simple. It is an 8 measure long repeating phrase, and it just loops. No B section or bridge really, there are 8 measures out front with bass, and then after they go through the progression 7 times, they do 8 measures of bass and drums and then they start the 8 measure phrase over again and fade out after a few more.

The progression:
C | C | G | G | Dmin | Dmin | Fmaj | G maj |
Thats it. Over and over.

The bass line is simple, but very sly and drives the entire song along. Notice how he puts a little marker at the last measure by changing the rhythm there, its like a little period at the end of a sentence.

Here is a recording posted by Rick Suckow that is supposedly the master tracks from the original recording:
And here it is written out:

bass lick tempo 125 4/4 | C c8 g a c8~ c g8 a c8 | c8 g a c8~ c g8 a c8 | G g+ d e g~ g d e g | g d e g~ g d e g | Dmin d a b d~ d a b d | d a b d~ d~ d e4 | F f8 c d f~ f c d f | G g d e8 r g8 a8~ a8 g |

So just put on a drum loop (at about 125 bpm )and practice playing this line evenly, steadily, and let every note get that thud. Even though this might be considered an easy song, making it sound great and groove is never easy and takes concentration.

Sometimes that last measure could be notated even more syncopated like this:

bass lick tempo 125 4/4 | G g+ d e8 r g8. a16~ a8 g |

He really anticipates some of them, but they are not that syncopated, it just feels like they are. He is grooving but kinda floating at the same time. Listen to the track to get into his feel, that is the most important thing for a track like this.


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