Leonard Hubbard, Roots member for 15 years, dies at 62

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Leonard Hubbard, 62, the bassist who has toured the world and recorded as a lead member of Philadelphia hip-hop group The Roots for 15 years, died Thursday, Dec. 16 at Lankenau Hospital.

Mr. Hubbard’s wife, Stéphanie, has confirmed her husband’s death. The cause of death was multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, which he was first diagnosed with in 2007. He was in remission until last month, his wife said. Mr. Hubbard lived in West Philadelphia.

Mr. Hubbard first joined The Roots in 1992, when the group was still called the Square Roots. He has performed on each of the group’s albums, starting in the years 1993 Organix to the years 2006 Game theory. He left the group in 2007. Two years later, the group began their late-night television association with Jimmy Fallon on NBC.

After his illness diagnosis, Mr. Hubbard wanted to work on his music as a composer, his wife said. In recent years, Mr. Hubbard had put together an album of song recordings under his own name for which he wrote music with artists such as Jill Scott, Ben Harper, Vernon Reid, Jeff “Tain” Watts and the singers of Philadelphia. . Lady Alma and Jaguar Wright. The album was completed last week, Stephanie Hubbard said.

“He wanted to be known for the type of music he was composing,” his wife said. “And before he died he was setting there at night listening to music, and he was so happy about it.”

On “Double Trouble” on The Roots’ 1999 album, Things are falling apart Black Thought rhymed, “Yo, me and Kamal and Leonard Hubbard, Questlove and Malik / We’re back to dollars hoagies and Tahitian Treat.” “

Mr. Hubbard first met The Roots – including rapper Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson – at a concert at Old City Coffee in 1992.

“They didn’t know me from Adam,” Mr. Hubbard told The Inquirer in 2007. “Ahmir told me to take a solo,” he said, “and when he saw that I was a virtuoso, he was like, “Oh, man, keep playing, keep playing. “

Mr. Hubbard achieved his musical virtuosity through years of study and hard work.

He grew up in West Philly in the neighborhood around 53rd Street and Girard Avenue and started playing bass in fourth grade. He learned from John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix albums owned by his older brother Robert and studied classical piano at Settlement Music School.

“It was a neighborhood full of musicians,” Mr. Hubbard recalls. “Every Saturday, people were outside with the congas and the drums on the front porches.”

Among the neighborhood musicians was bassist Michael Kruse, who played fretless bass, prompting Mr. Hubbard to use a pair of pliers to remove the frets from his own bass. In 2007, Cruse and Mr. Hubbard were named among the 100 establishments that the School of Music honored as part of its centennial.

While in a music magnet program at Overbrook High School, he studied after school at Settlement, taking private lessons with theory teacher Donald Rappaport and Eligio Rossi, who also taught bassist. jazz band Stanley Clarke. He studied classical music at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and performed in jazz, Latin, funk and R&B groups before joining The Roots.

During his years with The Roots, the musician known as “Hub” was known to appear on stage in a sleeveless hoodie with a stick of licorice root in his mouth.

An extended solo segment on stage would mix graceful melodic lines with thumb-picked, quivering beats before lifting the crowd up with the bass line from Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”.

Outside of The Roots, he scored the 2002 Bertha Bay-Sa Pan independent film Face, which mixed funk and traditional Chinese music, as well as the 2006 documentary Newspapers from Darfur: Message from home.

In 2007, before leaving the band, Mr. Hubbard spoke of how proud he was to play in “the world’s first live hip-hop group”.

In 2016, Mr. Hubbard filed a lawsuit against Thompson, Trotter and Roots director Shawn Gee, claiming he owed him money as a founding shareholder of The Roots. This lawsuit has not been settled, said Stephanie Hubbard.

The Roots tweeted: “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we say goodbye to our brother Leonard Nelson Hubbard. May your transition bring peace to your family, your friends, your fans and everyone who loved you. Rest in Melody Hub.

Mr. Hubbard is the second musician among the first members of The Roots to die in recent years. Rapper Malik Abdul-Basit, known as Malik B., died last year.

Mr. Hubbard is survived by his wife and stepdaughters India Owens and Onita Owens and stepson Edward Owens. Funeral services are still being planned.


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