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Family, Friends Remember Detroit Blues Legend Johnnie Bassett

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WWJ Photo/Kathryn Larson

WWJ Photo/Kathryn Larson

DETROIT (WWJ) - Friends and family of Detroit blues legend Johnnie Bassett gathered Saturday to remember and say their final goodbyes to the popular musician.

Bassett lost his battle with liver cancer last Saturday at the age of 76 at St. John Hospital in Detroit where he had been receiving treatment since July.

Visitors packed the New St. Mark’s Missionary Baptist Church on Eight Mile Road in Detroit to say goodbye to Bassett for the last time.

Detroit Blues Society board member Luther Keith said Bassett never hogged the limelight with his words, it was his music that carried his message.

“Johnnie had the most beautiful touch, he didn’t rush it. He played music like he talked, he didn’t do it to impress, he just wanted you to understand where he was coming from. So, when you listen to his music, it makes you very comfortable.If you listen to any of his songs, when e plays his guitar, every note says something,” said Keith.

Bassett, a man who spoke few words, created music that spoke volumes to the masses.

“His music meets you where you are, and that’s a rare thing. Not very many people can do that,” said long-time friend Clarence Thomas.

Thomas said Bassett grew up playing music on Hastings Street, an area deemed Detroit’s entertainment district, backing up Little Willie John and other acts at the Warfield Theater.

Friend Darrell Lee said Bassett never lost his love of playing.

“You want to keep playing, we want to keep playing until we die, and that’s what he did,” said Lee.

Bassett was born in Florida and moved to Detroit at the age of nine in the 1940s. Playing blues guitar, his musical influences were Albert King, B.B. King and T-Bone Walker.

For most of his career, Johnnie was a session musician playing with the likes of  Tina Turner, Dinah Washington and John Lee Hooker. In his later years, Bassett had his own band and since has released six albums.

His 1998 albumCadillac Blues”was nominated for five W C Handy Awards and in 1994, he was given a lifetime achievement award by The Detroit Blues Society.

Bassett leaves behind his wife (Deborah Campbell of Oak Park) a daughter, three stepchildren, a brother, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

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