Tony Levin (b. 1946) is a Boston native who started playing upright bass at age 10. He went on to study at Eastman School of Music, where he had the chance to play under Igor Stravinsky and with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Drummer Steve Gadd, a friend and fellow Eastman student, introduced Levin to jazz and rock, as they drove the rhythm of the Chuck Mangione Quartet. Levin soon after traded in his upright for a Fender bass, becoming a studio musician in New York City.
Levin has experienced success in jazz, fusion, and rock groups, including important work with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson. His studio credits extend from Cher to Buddy Rich to John Lennon. His most notable bass-playing albums and tours have been with Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Buddy Rich, Peter Frampton, Gotye, Carly Simon, Judy Collins, Paula Cole, Chuck Mangione, Steven Wilson, James Taylor.
He has six solo albums and has performed on more than 70 collaborative albums. His published books are Beyond the Bass Clef, Road Photos, Crimson Chronicles vol 1, and Fragile as a Song.
In 1976, Levin joined with Gadd to create the lush textures on Andy Pratt‘s Resolution album, which Rolling Stone magazine deemed one of the best singer/songwriter albums of the 1970s. The following year Levin joined Peter Gabriel’s band and has been Gabriel’s bass player of choice for more than 40 years, both on the road and in the studio.
In 1986, the song “Big Time,” from Gabriel’s So album, inspired the development of funk fingers, which are chopped off drumsticks used to hammer on the bass strings. Levin credits Gabriel with the idea. Also in the 1980s, Levin became a member of King Crimson and began recording sessions on Double Fantasy with John Lennon and a group of his contemporaries. He also played all of the bass guitar and Chapman Stick parts on Pink Floyd‘s 1987 album A Momentary Lapse of Reason as a session player.