One of the last surviving members of the Funk Brothers, Motown's house band, Babbitt passed away in Nashville, Tennessee on Monday. The Detroit Free Press newspaper said he had been diagnosed last year with an inoperable brain tumour.
"Bob Babbitt, bassist and Funk Brother passed away today. He can be heard on many Motown hits. Our thoughts are with his loved ones today," the Motown Museum said on its Twitter feed (@Motown_Museum).
Born Robert Kreinar in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Babbitt - who studied classical bass in his youth - joined Motown after moving to Detroit and building himself a solid reputation as a session musician.
He became one of the very few white musicians to join the Funk Brothers when Motown called upon his services in 1967 to complement the label's legendary - but increasingly erratic - bassist James Jamerson, who died in 1983.
Babbitt played on more than 200 Top 40, including the Capitols' Cool Jerk, Smokey Robinson's The Tears of a Clown and Stevie Wonder's Signed Sealed Delivered I'm Yours.
He also featured on Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On album, one of Motown's biggest sellers, before migrating towards the 1970s Philadelphia soul scene, recording Then Came You and Rubberband Man with the Spinners.
Babbitt's talents remained much in demand after he settled down in Nashville, and he figured prominently in the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown that gave belated recognition to the Funk Brothers' story.
Bob won't be layin' it down anymore.