LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Motown drummer Uriel Jones, whose hard-driving funk propelled classic tunes by the Temptations and Marvin Gaye, died in a Michigan hospital on Tuesday after suffering complications from a heart attack, a family member said. He was 74.
Jones, the last surviving drummer in the Motown session band known as the Funk Brothers, was stricken in mid-February but had been showing signs of improvement, said his sister-in-law Leslie Coleman. He relapsed last Tuesday, and died at Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center in Dearborn, she told Reuters.
He was a key component of the “psychedelic soul” foray by the Temptations, including “Cloud Nine” and “I Can’t Get Next to You,” and brought a party feel to their earlier hit “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.”
But Jones also applied a sensitive touch to such ballads as “The Tracks of My Tears,” by The Miracles, and “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” by Jimmy Ruffin.
Jones came to Motown in 1964 after touring with Gaye, and recorded for Motown’s enfant terrible on “Ain’t That Peculiar,” “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
“Uriel’s drum sound was the most open and laid-back, and he was the funkiest of the three guys we had,” said Motown arranger Paul Riser. “He had a mixed feel and did a lot of different things well.”
Motown’s primary drummer was Benny Benjamin, but Jones and Richard “Pistol” Allen increasingly shared the duties as Benjamin was sidelined by drug addiction. Benjamin died in 1969. Allen succumbed to cancer in 2002 shortly after completing production on the Funk Brothers documentary “Standing in the Shadows of Motown.”
The film, released to great acclaim in 2003, gave a new lease of life to Motown’s forgotten session musicians. The band toured the world and won two Grammy awards. While Motown recordings utilized many musicians, the film focused on 13 players, of whom five were already dead. Just four Funk Brothers are alive now.
Jones is survived by his wife, June, and three children. Funeral services are pending.
Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Mohammad Zargham