James Mtume, a decorated songwriter, composer, producer and activist, has died. He was 75.
Mtume’s niece Lisa Lucas, who remembered him as her late father’s “partner in crime,” confirmed the news in a tweet Sunday afternoon.
“So much loss. So much grief. Rest in power to Uncle Mtume,” she wrote. “He was essential part of the life of the man who made me, therefore me too. Gone now. He will be dearly, eternally missed.”
Additional details regarding his death have not yet been released.
Mtume and guitarist Reggie Lucas, co-wrote the 1978 hit, “The Closer I Get to You” for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway.
Born James Foreman in 1946, Mtume was a pianist and percussionist since his early years.
He was raised in a home that permeated with jazz, according to the biography on his website. However, a swimming scholarship led him to pursue a future with athletics at Pasadena City College.
The West Coast— timed with the 1960’s Black Power movement—offered Mtume an atmosphere for his own socio-political awareness to come of age, his bio reads. Shortly after, he changed his name to “Mtume,” – Swahili for ‘messenger’.
While his first three albums were acoustic jazz compositions, James Mtume was known for constantly evolving his sound.
His fame took on a new meaning after forming his own namesake group—Mtume, adding lead singer Tawatha Agee and fusing the sounds into his own “Sophistafunk.”
The Philadelphia-born musician was widely known for his 1983 No.1 R&B chart-topper, “Juicy Fruit.” Sampled by The Notorious B.I.G. in 1994 on his debut-album “Ready to Die,” Biggies’s single, “Juicy” also soared quickly, peaking at #1 on the Hot Rap Singles chart.
The musical legend clinched his Grammy Award in 1980 for Stephanie Mills‘ “Never Knew Love Like This Before.” The top-ten hit was honored for Best R&B Song for Writing and Producing.
In an Instagram post following the news of his passing, Mills remembered Mtume as a brilliant and amazing music mind.
“The work chemistry we had was second to none. I will continue to lift you up through our music,” she wrote.
Mtume also performed in Miles Davis’ band and appeared on over 80 albums with a variety of other notable musicians, including Duke Ellington, Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Lonnie Liston Smith, Mary J. Blige, and K-Ci and Jo-Jo.
TV One sends our condolences to his loved ones at this time.
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