He was a bassist and vocalist born in Yazoo City, Mississippi, who moved to Detroit in the 1960s and before long became a session musician. At just 13 years old he was playing for Billy Preston, The Fantastic Four and The Detroit Emeralds among others.
He became one of the first bassists of the fusion era as well as being an influential jazz and soul artist who was considered one of the three great Motown bassists.
He had finished touring with Aretha Franklin and met Miles Davis in Chicago while he was touring with Stevie Wonder. This led to him becoming notable for his work with him during a period of nearly seven years from 1970 until his retirement in 1976. While working with Miles Davis he met the drummer Norman Connors who he would go on to work and record with. In fact Norman Connors recorded his song “Valentine Love”, which Michael sang on and it went to No. 1o on the R&B chart. He also wrote “You Are My Starship” and “We Both Need Each Other” which both reached No. 4
After Miles Davis’s retirement he decided to concentrate on singing and songwriting which brought him many hit songs for Buddah Records from 1976 to 1983. His track “Take Me I’m Yours” reached the Top 10 of the R&B chart and “Wide Receiver” went to No. 4 in the chart and is extremely popular with breakdancers.
In 1986 he moved on to EMI and he recorded the track “We Can’t Fall in Love Again” with Phyllis Hyman. He also sang with Johnnie Taylor and Bobby Womack. On the production side of things he produced The Dramatics. During this time has also discovered that the as yet unknown Cherrelle was his next door neighbour and he went on to help her launch her career, with her becoming a background singer for him for four years.
He worked with artists including Doctor John, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder and bands such as Mtume. The bass riffs he used while he was at Motown are still used by others and his riffs on Norman Connors’ “Valentine Love” and “You Are My Starship” have been sampled and some of his songs have been covered by artists such as Jay-Z, Rick James and Eminem.
He played at several reunion concerts of the Miles David bands and continued to perform his own material as well as incorporating music from Motown and others into his solo shows.
His solo albums include Solid, Goin’ Places, Do It All, In the Night Time, Slingshot, Wide Receiver, Fickle and Bedtime Stories.
He died from cancer in Dallas, Georgia in July 2022. He was 71 years old.