Joe Osborn, bassist and member of the legendary group of studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew—pictured above performing alongside George Harrison—has died at 81 following a battle with pancreatic cancer. The news was confirmed by director Danny Tedesco, who profiled Osborn in his 2008 film The Wrecking Crew! Tedesco announced Osborn’s passing on The Wrecking Crew!’s Facebook page over the weekend.
Osborn joined the Wrecking Crew in Los Angeles in 1964, contributing to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and The Mamas & The Papas’ “California Dreamin’,” as well as tracks by The Beach Boys, The Carpenters, Phil Spector, America and more. Osborn often performed alongside drummer Hal Blaine and keyboardist Larry Knechtel. The trio performed on the original cast recording of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
After his time in the Wrecking Crew, Osborn moved to Nashville, where he became a staple of country music sessions, appearing on 53 Number One country songs, according to Tedesco.
“Even though he was a quiet man, I could see the sparkle in his eyes when he saw the love of his fans,” Tedesco wrote. “I called him a gentle bear. He made his impact in Rock and Roll and Country. First called session bass player in two cities; Los Angeles and Nashville. My favorite line from Joe. He was asked why he kept the same strings on his bass for 17 years. His answer, ‘No one told me I was supposed to change them.’ He will truly be missed but not forgotten.”
Find a few of the music world’s tributes to Osborn below.