Saturday Night Music, October 21: The O’Jays, “For The Love of Money,” 1973

I’ve always hated that Donald Trump appropriated “For the Love of Money” for his show, The Apprentice. Written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Anthony Jackson, the song is a rebuke, with lyrics derived straight from the bible, against the evils of greed and materialism. Trump used it as a celebration and an affirmation of the love and worship of money. Ugh… Reminds me of how right-wingers flocked to Bruce Springsteen and his “Born in the USA” for all the wrong reasons.

I hope the right people still own that song…

If you wanna know who was the genius behind that opening bass guitar riff throughout this song, it is this guy, Anthony Jackson, now 57, based in New York City. Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about how that sound actually came about.

Anthony Jackson

Jazz bassist Anthony Jackson performing bathed in blue light; it is his bass riff that sounds throughout the iconic O'Jays' song, "For the Love of Money" (Courtesy:

Anthony Jackson played bass guitar on the song. One day during fall 1973 (when Jackson was 21), producer/keyboardist Leon Huff was leading the members of the MFSB rhythm section and Jackson through a rehearsal. Sigma Sound Studios owner/engineer Joe Tarsia noticed that Jackson had a wah-wah pedal attached to his Fender Precision bass. Tarsia decided to run Jackson’s bassline through a phaser, giving it a swishing sound and later mixed in echo. During the final mixing of the track, Kenny Gamble impulsively reached over to the echo button and added echo to Jackson’s opening riffs.

Even though “For The Love of Money” is over seven minutes long, it was given heavy airplay in the early Seventies, both long and short versions, on black soul as well as white stations. It peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard R&B list and at No. 9 on the Billboard Singles chart in 1974. It is included in the O’Jays’ Ship Ahoy theme album, which charted No. 11 that year on the Billboard 200.

[…] The second single, “For The Love of Money,” is a protest against materialism with a groove that Rolling Stone described as “downright orgiastic”. The song was written around a bass line composed by Anthony Jackson, which in 2005 Bass Player Magazine described as “landmark.” Bass Player went on to note that the song has “become one of the most recycled singles ever, sampled continually by rappers, and appearing on over 75 compilation CDs, numerous movie soundtracks…

In other words, Anthony Jackson’s bass line for “For The Love of Money” ranks with that of Motown Funk Brother Robert White’s easily recognizable bass track for “My Girl.”

Jackson continues to perform singly and variously with other jazz musicians. He started out on the piano and worked his way to the bass guitar. He plays bass and his own invention, the six-string, or contrabass guitar. His influences are Motown mainstay James Jamerson whose performances made him pick up the bass; Oliver Messaien, the French composer, and Jack Casady of the Jefferson Airplane. Of Casady, Jackson said to Bass Player Magazine, “Casady, whom I’d first heard on Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow album in late 1966, had a big, rich, metallic sound with a full bottom and a curious, guitaristic way of playing that I was immediately drawn to. When I saw him perform live, I was struck by his dignity and serious mien.”

Hmmm. Those psychedelic types do have presence, I guess.

The O’Jays are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame–almost all of them: Walter Williams, Bobby Massey, William Powell and Eddie Levert. Unfortunately, their induction wasn’t all that appreciated by the surviving members of the group–I believe they were introduced by Justin Timberlake, of all people. In addition, one of the original members, Bill Isles, was not inducted at the same time, but the replacement for the deceased William Powell, Sammy Strain, was. Very strange. Very, very strange. Some people may not be getting things right.

They are a trio now: Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, and Eric Grant. They still perform live; their last album, Imagination , was produced in 2004.


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~ by blksista on November 21, 2009.

One Response to “Saturday Night Music, October 21: The O’Jays, “For The Love of Money,” 1973”

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