Bass legend Louis Johnson, the funk session musician who played on Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”, has passed away of undisclosed causes. He was 60 years old.
Nicknamed “Thunder Thumbs,” Johnson was born in Los Angeles in 1955 and learned to play bass alongside his brother George. The duo would work alongside each other with Bobby Womack, the Supremes, and Billy Preston throughout the ’70s, but it was their work with producer Quincy Jones that led to the Brothers Johnson creating their own music. They released four albums with Jones producing: Look Out for #1, Right on Time, Blam!, and Light Up the Night. The brothers scored several hits including “I’ll Be Good to You,” “Get the Funk Out Ma Face,” “Strawberry Letter 23,” and “Stomp”.
The Brothers Johnson split in 1982 to focus on their own personal projects. Louis recorded Passage and Evolution in 1981 and 1985, but it was his session work that truly flourished. Most notably, Johnson is featured on Michael Jackson’s albums Off the Wall, Thriller, and Dangerous, where he recorded the hits “Billie Jean” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. He went on to play with a who’s who of the music industry with a resume that includes Rufus, Stanley Clarke, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Bill Withers, Andrae Crouch, and many more.
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Louis Johnson.