He was one of the first notable bass guitarists of the fusion era as well as being one of the most influential jazz and soul musicians of the past 40 years. In addition to Davis, he has played and recorded with Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, the Dramatics, Doctor John and many other famous artists. He is considered to be one of the three greatest Motown bass guitarists, along with Bob Babbitt and his primary influence, James Jamerson.
Before working with Davis, Henderson had been touring with Stevie Wonder, whom he met at the Regal Theater in Chicago while warming up for a gig. Davis saw the young Henderson performing at the Copacabana in New York City in early 1970 and reportedly said to Wonder simply "I'm takin' your bass player."
After almost seven years with Davis, Henderson focused on songwriting and singing in a solo career that produced many hit songs and albums for Arista Records until his retirement in 1986. Although known primarily for ballads, he was an influential funk player whose riffs and songs have been widely covered. His solo recordings have sold well over one million albums. A track titled "Wide Receiver" on an album of the same name is highly favored by breakdancers. The album was reissued by Superbird (UK) in November 2010 and a compilation titled The Best of Michael Henderson features the "Wide Receiver" song. He is also known for his ballad vocalizing on Norman Connors hit recordings of "You Are My Starship" performed solo and "Valentine Love" performed with Jean Carn.