For most Jamaican musicians, keeping the island vibe parochial is a key to their international identity, for most – but not for Phil Chen, who passed away today, December 14th, aged 75. No, the great bassman, as Phil preferred to call himself, had a lot of skank in his playing, yet it was the mighty melodic layer of what Chen did that elevated him to the ranks of rock royalty. Of course, this artist’s profile hit the peak when Phil joined Rod Stewart’s band and appeared on popular tunes, including “Hot Legs” and “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” – although watching him on video or live, some people used to mistake him, a guy of Chinese origin, for Tetsu Yamauchi – yet he landed that gig thanks to playing on Jeff Beck’s revolutionary “Blow By Blow” on which Chen emerged as a co-writer of “Air Blower” and a fusion force par excellence.
Earlier, soon after his relocation to the United Kingdom, Phil left his mark on such chart entries as Linda Lewis’ “Rock-a-Doodle-Doo” and Jim Capaldi’s “It’s All Up to You” and was also a member of BUTTS BAND alongside John Densmore and Robby Krieger, joining the latter in the 2000’s and appearing with the guitarist as late as 2019, and also penned “Pop-A-Top” with Jess Roden for the group’s debut album. Chen’s low-end can be heard on Gary Boyle’s "Electric Glide" and EURHYTHMICS’ “Revenge”; he took part in Brian May and Roger Taylor’s projects; he even recorded with Lita Ford and Bo Diddley – the span of the veteran’s stylistic reach seemed immense. Not for nothing he received Jamaican Order of Distinction in 2014.
We were in touch for years and even started an interview long ago – left unfinished, for good now. Sleep well, old friend, De Bassman.