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Last Updated: Monday, 5 February 2007, 17:12 GMT
Motown veteran Hunter dies at 79
Joe Hunter (left) with fellow Funk Brothers Eddie Willis and Joe Messina
Joe Hunter (left) joined the fledgling Motown Records in 1958
US keyboardist Joe Hunter, a veteran session musician who helped craft the distinctive Motown sound, has died in Detroit, Michigan, at the age of 79.

As one of the Funk Brothers, Hunter performed with such legendary Motown acts as Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and Martha and the Vandellas.

He enjoyed a comeback recently after the award-winning 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown.

Hunter was found dead in his apartment on Friday, the Detroit News reported.

The cause of death was not immediately known.

'Terrific riffs'

The Funk Brothers - whose other members included pianist Earl Van Dyke, guitarist Joe Messina and percussionist Eddie "Bongo" Brown - provided the backing music for the majority of Motown's early output.

Songs on which they performed include Gaye's I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Smokey Robinson's Tears of a Clown and Papa Was a Rollin' Stone by the Temptations.

"Joe Hunter's piano and stellar leadership helped birth the Motown Sound," said Bruce Resnikoff of Motown's parent label Universal.

"His terrific riffs and easy-going musicianship will live forever."

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