Leonard Hubbard, the bass player of the Philadelphia bred hip-hop and soul band ‘The Roots’ died on Thursday, Dec. 16, at the age of 62. Hubbard’s wife, Stephanie, confirmed that his cause of death was multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer that he was diagnosed with in 2007.
“It’s with the heaviest of hearts that we say goodbye to our brother Leonard Nelson Hubbard. May your transition bring peace to your family to your friends to your fans and all of those who loved you. Rest in Melody Hub,” The Roots Tweeted. Hubbard joined the roots in 1992, when he sat in for a gig at Old City Coffee, when the band was still called the ‘Square Roots’, with other known musicians such as hip-hop artist Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. He has played on every album the band has created from 1993 all the way until 2006, leaving the group in 2007 after his diagnosis. A couple of years later, The Roots started the late-night TV show Jimmy Fallon on NBC.
The Roots was not Hubbard’s beginnings to music, he grew up in West Philadelphia around 53rd Street and Girard Avenue where he learned how to play bass in fourth grade. He studied musicians such as John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix, as well as classical piano at Settle Music School. “It was a neighborhood full of musicians,” said Hubbard. “Every Saturday, people would be outside with the congas and the drums on the front stoops.” Hubbard was enrolled in a music magnet program at Overbrook High School after he studied at Settlement. He took private lessons from theory teacher Donald Rappaport and Eligio Rosso, who also taught Stanley Clarke. In college, he studied classical music at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and played in Latin, Funk, R&B, and jazz bands before joining The Roots.
Hubbard’s other ventures included scoring Bertha Bay-Sa Pan’s 2002 indie film Face that mixed funk with traditional Chinese music. In 2006 he scored Darfur Diaries: Message From Home. After his diagnosis in 2007, Hubbard wanted to focus more on composing. In the most recent years, Hubbard put together an album of recordings under his name that he wrote for artists like Ben Harper, Jeff Twain Watts, Jill Scott, and more. He completed the album The Awakening last week, his wife stated.
“He wanted to be known for the type of music he was composing,” said Hubbard’s wife. “And before he died, he was sitting there at night listening to the music, he was so happy with it.”
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