Mindy McCready, Bob Babbitt and the Footprints We Leave Behind

As most of you have heard by now, a few weeks ago marked the passing of Mindy McCready. 

Last night, I read a few online news stories as the details of how her life spiraled out of control which led to her taking her life.  A sad tale of such tragic proportion.

Though death is a cause for remembrance and celebration of lives well lived. 

How does one celebrate the tragic life not-so-well lived?

I then began to read some of the obituaries of more celebrities who have passed in the last year.  Some passed with hardly any notice while the tabloids continued to plaster Miss McCready’s picture up  with headlines of scandal and horrid stories of drug addition and abuse.

Bob BabbittSome that passed with hardly any notice.  Like that of Bob Babbitt. 

Do you know who Bob Babbitt was?

Anyone who really knows me, knows that I am a huge Motown fan.  I grew up listening to CKLW out of Detroit  and at the time it was the “Motown Sound” that shaped the world that I lived in.

Well, Motown bass player Bob Babbitt, whose work lit up a host of hits in the ’60s and ’70s, died this past year.  He was 74.  Very few people noticed.

You have heard Bob Babbitt more than you know.

At Motown Records in the late ’60s, Babbitt’s thick, fluid bass lines drove the groove on songs by the Temptations (“Ball of Confusion”), Stevie Wonder (“Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours),” Rare Earth (“Losing You”), Smokey Robinson & the Miracles (“The Tears of a Clown”) and many others.

Babbitt was born Robert Kreinar in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and as a child took up the double bass and studied classical music.  As a teenager he played in clubs and was offered a place at the University of Pittsburgh. However, his father’s sudden death meant he had to earn a living, and in the late 1950s he moved to Detroit, where an uncle had found him work in the construction industry.

He adopted the stage name Babbitt and was soon immersed in Detroit’s rich music scene. He joined a group called the Royaltones and his prowess landed him a job with Del Shannon.

He soon became a key member of  Motown’s renowned Funk Brothers studio band, he often moonlighted for other Detroit labels and studios — including United Sound and Golden World — performing on tunes such as the Capitols’ “Cool Jerk,” the Parliaments’ “(I Wanna) Testify,” and Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold.”  Other work in the ’60s included sessions with hometown star Bob Seger, at United Sound, and with rocker Jeff Beck.

Like many studio musicians of the era, Babbitt wasn’t always publicly acknowledged for his work. It wasn’t uncommon for Babbitt’s role to be omitted — or even actively hidden — on record credits.

He remained a go-to session musician and tour bassist in the 1970s, notching hits with artists such as the Spinners, the O’Jays and Gloria Gaynor. Though heralded for his soul chops, Babbitt was versatile enough to land work across a variety of styles, performing on such top 10 pop hits as Jim Croce’s “I Got a Name” and Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana.” Other hits that he played on were, “Touch Me in the Morning” by Diana Ross, “Then Came You” by Dionne Warwick, Elton John’s “Mama Can’t Buy you Love” and “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & the Pips. 

All in all, Bob Babbit earned 25 Gold and Platinum records by playing bass on over 200 charting Top 40 hits during his career.  No scandals… No tabloid articles of drug abuse or suicide.

Quite an impressive resume if you ask me and he left footprints for others to follow.

Yet most of you reading this have no clue who he was, but I would venture a guess that all of you heard about Miss McCready’s death. 

The Country singer and mother-of-two shot herself on the porch of her Heber Springs, Arkansas home almost a month after her boyfriend David Wilson did the same thing.

She had just checked out of rehab where she was ordered into a mental health substance abuse program after admitting in court she had ‘indulged in too much alcohol’ trying to cope with her boyfriend’s death.  The tabloids have been relentless and had pretty much made up or shared every horrid detail of her life in free-fall.

Her suicide marked a brutal end for a singer who had once been among Nashville’s brightest stars before a toxic spiral of reckless relationships, arrests, addiction and family fights played out publicly for nearly a decade.

I realized that the end  of this life presents us with a very real challenge: What will others say about us when our time on earth is over?  What footprints are we leaving for others to see?

Her obituary is filled with words of scandal, drug addiction and worse.  Would you want any of these words forever written in your obituary or etched into your tombstone?

But then again, what will my obituary say? Am I living in such a way that the ones I leave behind will be encouraged, enlightened, and emboldened by my example? Or will my passing from this earth be a cause of relief, regret, or—worse yet—unnoticed by those I hold most dear?

It’s a sobering thought. But thankfully, it’s never too late to finish well.

I don’t know about you, but after watching the news this week, I really, really want to finish well. I want to be able to say, like the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (2 Timothy 4:7).

But the longer I walk with God, the more I realize with startling clarity just how far short I fall from His glory. With fifty-one years behind me and only God knows how many more ahead, I have to cling tightly to the God’s promise that His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:15).  I am increasingly grateful that the Lord’s steadfast love never changes, and His mercies are new every morning! (Lamentations 3:22–23).

And someday, hopefully years from now—when the Lord calls me home, I hope my epitaph will say something that will bring honor to my God, my wife and my family.

What about you? Are you finishing your life well?  Have you considered what your epitaph will say?

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