Anatomy of THE Groove: “The Only Reason I Live” by Marcus Miller (1983)

Marcus Miller is probably my favorite contemporary funk bass players. The youthful prodigy was discovered by by Michael Urbaniak in the mid 70’s. He went on to have a 15 year long career as a session bassist-recording with everyone from Luther Vandross,Bryan Ferry to perhaps his most famous stint as the right hand man in Miles Davis’s early/mid 80’s band. How many bassists who emerged after 1974 had that breadth as a player. Later in the 80’s,he became a musical director of NBC’s Sunday Night Live-as well as being a member of the house band for the show. This was yet another musical feather in his cap.

Marcus’s career came to my personal attention via a cassette tape that my father picked at a local thrift store. It was of Marcus’s self titled sophomore solo album. His solo career was at first more instrumentally informed by his work with Luther Vandross at the time-especially in terms of uptempo tunes. Following him being the main musical figure (in lieu of the absent Prince) on Miles Davis’s 1986 album Tutu,the sound of Marcus’s solo albums from 1993 onward follow more in Miles’s direction. His 1983 debut Suddenly showcases another side of his talents with songs such as “The Only Reason I Live”.

Yogi Horton starts off this song with a fast rolling drum-one that hits fast and hard every other beat on the snare. That in addition to providing a Mutron-type,round filtered drum flash on the next beats. Marcus comes in with a brittle chicken scratch guitar-throwing down a fast ans ascending synth bass line underneath it. On the choruses,he adds a high pitched blast of synth blast. The bridge features Marcus scat singing over the even more kinetic drums and synth solos. On the final refrains of the songs,Marcus’s thumb slams away on the electric slap bass as well just before the groove fades away.

As times marched on,this has become one of my favorite early vocal funks jams from his first solo career in the 80’s. On songs like this,Marcus merges two vital elements of boogie/post disco synth funk. It has the fast dance tempo and instrumental flair of a Quincy Jones Westlake production like “Love Is In Control”. But it also has the brittle, stripped down sound of a Prince song such as “Erotic City”. Considering that,aside from Yogi Horton’s drums,that Marcus played all the instruments on this song showcases he was on the funky musical forefront even early on in his solo career.

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Filed under 1980's, Boogie Funk, chicken scratch guitar, drums, elecro funk, Funk Bass, Marcus Miller, naked funk, post disco, session musicians, slap bass, synth bass, synth brass, Uncategorized, Yogi Horton

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