Tony Levin is in arguably the most influential bass player in America. Having played bass for a seemingly endless list of artists (including David Bowie, John Lennon, Alice Cooper, Paul Simon, Peter Frampton), and an even longer list of albums (400 and counting), Levin is best known in cult circles for his 80s work with the prog rock band, King Crimson. (The term “progressive” is used by definition, but Crimson’s music was a complex filtering of classical, new wave, metal, folk and jazz.) Levin’s most famous contribution, however, came in the form of the casual funk bassline in Peter Gabriel’s Motown-influenced “Sledgehammer,” a runaway #1 hit in 1986.
Levin helped popularize the famous Chapman Stick and NS “skeleton body” upright bass. He also created “funk fingers,” a kind of drumstick attached to the fingers to produce a percussive funk sound on the bass strings.
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