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Stanley Clarke (born June 30, 1951) is an American bassist and founding member of Return to Forever, one of the first jazz fusion bands. He has composed music for films and television and has worked with musicians in many genres. Like Jaco Pastorius, Clarke gave the bass guitar a prominence it previously lacked.
Clarke was born in Philadelphia. His mother sang opera around the house, belonged to a church choir, and encouraged him to study music. He was introduced to the bass as a schoolboy when he arrived late on the day instruments were distributed to students, and acoustic bass was one of the few remaining selections. He took lessons on double bass at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, beginning with five years of classical music. He picked up bass guitar in his teens so that he could perform at parties and imitate the rock and pop bands that girls liked. He cites as influences Ron Carter and Charles Mingus.
Clarke attended the Philadelphia Academy of Music. After graduating, he moved to New York City in 1971 and at the age of eighteen was a member of Horace Silvers band. He also worked with Art Blakey, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Pharoah Sanders, and Gil Evans. He intended to become the first black musician in the Philadelphia Orchestra until he met jazz pianist Chick Corea.
In 1973, Clark and Corea were founding members of the jazz fusion group Return to Forever with Lenny White and Bill Connors. Fusion was a combination of rock and jazz that was beginning to take shape and become popular during the early 1970s. Like Jaco Pastorius, he was playing a new kind of music, using new techniques, and giving the bass a prominence it had