Leonard ‘Hub’ Hubbard, bassist for The Roots, dead at 62

Hubbard had battled multiple myeloma for years, leaving the band in 2007 following his diagnosis.

A key member of legendary hip-hop band The Roots has died at the age of 62. 

Bassist Leonard “Hub” Hubbard had battled multiple myeloma — a form of blood cancer — since 2007, when he left the band following his diagnosis. He had been in remission until recently, but his condition quickly deteriorated Wednesday night, according to his wife, Stephanie Hubbard. Reports say he suddenly grew immobile. 

Bassist Leonard “Hub” Hubbard of The Roots performs during a Sept. 2005 benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina relief at the Kimmel Center in in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

Hubbard told Philadelphia’s 6ABC she was unable to be with her husband at the time of his passing at Lankenau Medical Center after taking him there due to COVID restrictions. “I was called to the hospital,” she said. “They told me what had happened, that he had passed. I went to the hospital and was able to sit with him.”

She told The Philadelphia Inquirer her husband had been putting together an album collecting recordings of songs he had written for other artists. The project was just completed last week. 

“He wanted to be known for the type of music he was composing,” Mrs. Hubbard said. “And before he died, he was sitting there at night listening to the music, and he was so happy with it.”

“When you hear his project, you’ll see he was so much more than what people know,” she shared.

According to the report, the pending album will feature Jill Scott, Ben Harper, Vernon Reid, Jeff “Tain” Watts and the Philadelphia singers Lady Alma and Jaguar Wright.

Recognizable in The Roots by his licorice chew stick, Hub would often excite crowds at the band’s legendary live shows with his solo segments. A Philadelphia native, he grew up in West Philly and began playing bass in third grade, also studying classical piano at the acclaimed Settlement Music School. 

Hubbard had been with The Roots since their early days in Philly’s most fertile ground, joining the band in 1992. He was with The Root for 15 years and played on the outfit’s first seven albums until his 2007 departure. Two years later, the band became the house musicians for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. 

In 2016, Hubbard sued Roots founders Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, as well as the band’s manager, Shawn Gee, claiming he was owed money as a founding member of The Roots. That suit has not been settled. 

In a statement Thursday, the band said, “It’s with the heaviest of hearts that we say goodbye to our brother Leonard Nelson Hubbard.  May your transition bring peace to your family to your friends to your fans and all of those who loved you. Rest in Melody Hub.”

Another member of the band, rapper Malik Abdul-Basit, best known as Malik B., died in 2020

Hubbard is survived by his wife, stepdaughters India Owens and Onita Owens and stepson Edward Owens.

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