Uriel Jones, 74, a drummer whose versatile, passionate beat fueled classic Motown hits by the Temptations, the Four Tops and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, died Tuesday at a Detroit-area hospital after complications from a heart attack in February.
Jones was part of the Funk Brothers, the house band on Motown recordings that was the focus of an acclaimed 2002 documentary called “Standing in the Shadows of Motown.” That film brought the players in the wider world that had largely escaped them during Motown’s 1960s heyday.
Motown seldom listed musician credits on albums, but among the songs that featured Jones on drums were “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye, “I Second That Emotion” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, “For Once in My Life” by Stevie Wonder and “I Can’t Get Next to You” by the Temptations.
Paul Riser, a Motown arranger-musician, said Jones had a distinctive, driving sound that drew inspiration from his days as a boxer. Yet, Riser said, Jones could also play with restraint when the song called for it.
“There was a pulse in his playing . . . that nobody else had,” Riser said. “He loved music for the sake of music. He loved when it came out good, and he hated when it came out bad.”
A native of Detroit, Jones joined Motown in 1964 and toured with Gaye in addition to playing on studio recordings.