7/14/2013

Weekly Basslines #110: Higher And Higher (Jackie Wilson, Otis Redding, Jimmy Barnes, Rita Coolidge)

This post was initially caused by a request in an australian bass forum, where a member asked for the bassline to the song "Higher and Higher" in the version done by australian singer Jimmy Barnes. Curious about that version I looked for it on YouTube realizing that it seemed to be very similiar to the widely known version from Jackie Wilson. I then decided to have the basslines analyzed in detail. I quickly noticed that this could be very revealing in terms of different approaches to bassline-building. Hence I was looking for more versions of this song and finally decided to share my findings with you.

Comparing different versions of a song is something I sometimes recommend to my students in order to learn how to vary a given bassline without changing it's fundamental groove and feel too much. Often enough even subtle changes can lead to a more vibrant performance, especially in rather repetitive basslines.


Let's start by looking at the most famous version by Jackie Wilson from 1967. According to wikipedia the bass was played by the great James Jamerson.


What a cool groovy bassline!!
The second version I want to look at is from Otis Redding (bass probably played by Duck Dunn):


Let's have a look at the differences:
The persistent repetitive bassline of the Jamerson bassline is broken up by having a different pattern for the verses, which results in more contrast between choruses and verses. Note how the dotted quarter-note-pattern persists in the verse bassline. This is good example for keeping a fundamental groove, while varying a bassline.

Let's have a short look at the above-mentoined Jimmy Barnes version:



 As you can see there's only a slight rhythmic change to Jamerson's Bassline.


Apart from the discussed differences these three versions also have a few things in common:
- the tempo: ranging between 184bpm to 192bpm they're all up-tempo
- the key is D major (the Otis Redding version has a key change to Eb towards the end)

A remarkably slower tempo (120bpm) has the 1977 version from Rita Coolidge:


Besides the poor audio quality of the video, it's also pitched up a semitone. My original recording starts with the key of Db major and then moves up a semitone twice during the song resulting in Eb major at the end.






There are much more cover-versions of that song. During my investigation I stumbled across a very interesting website called "Second Hand Songs" which is a database of cover songs. For "Higher and Higher" there are 26 versions listed, some of them directly linked with YouTube clips to watch.
Have a look yourself:


I hope you found this post informative, useful and entertaining. If so I might consider doing more "Second-Hand-Songs-Investigations".