Grammy-winning songwriter James Mtume dies at 76: “A monumental loss”


James mtume

David Corio / Michael Ochs Archive / Getty Images James mtume

Grammy-winning songwriter and musician James Mtume has passed away. He was 76 years old.

Mtume’s son Falau confirmed the news to Pitchfork on Sunday. Further information on the cause of his death was immediately available.

Lisa Lucas, the daughter of the late and late Mtume collaborator Reggie Lucas, also shared the sad news on Twitter, calling the musician her “honorary uncle.”

“So much loss. So much sorrow. Rest in power to Uncle Mtume”, she said. wrote. “My late accomplice father, the co-creator of the songs of my life (and of my birth!). He was an integral part of the life of the man who made me, so me too. Gone now. He will be. dearly, eternally missed. “

A representative for Mtume did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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Mtume was born in South Philadelphia in 1946 as the son of saxophonist Jimmy Heath, although he was raised by his stepfather James Forman, a Philly-based jazz pianist who worked with Charlie Parker’s band. .

According to the biography on his website, Mtume then moved to the West Coast in the mid-1960s after earning a swimming scholarship at Pasadena City College. There he became involved in the Black Power movement and joined The Organization Us, whose founder Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa. It was around this time that he changed his last name to Mtume, which means “messenger” in Swahili.

After moving to the East, Mtume took over from his father and stepfather and rose to prominence as a jazz musician. From 1971 to 1975, he toured with jazz legend Miles Davis and his band as a percussionist.

Then, in 1978, he created his own R & B-jazz group, called Mtume, with Lucas as well as Tawatha Agee. They released five albums between that date and 1986, becoming best known for “Juicy Fruit”. The song remained on the Billboard R&B chart for 22 weeks and was subsequently sampled by Notorious BIG’s hit “Juicy”.

James mtume

James mtume

Jamie McCarthy / WireImage James mtume

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Mtume also wrote the music for the James Baldwin film adaptation Native son. Her other songwriting credits include Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s “The Closer I Get to You”, Mary J. Blige’s 1997 album. Share my world and “Never Knew Love Like This Before” by Stephanie Mills, which won her and Lucas a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song.

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Following the announcement of his death, various fans and musicians paid tribute to him on social networks.

“Rest In Power to the great James Mtume”, Philadelphia DJ Cosmo Baker wrote on Twitter. “Prodigal son and native of South Philly, Jazz ROYALTY (son of the great Jimmy Heath) and pioneer and pioneer of music. His passing is truly a monumental loss.”

“Rest in peace to the legendary James Mtume,” added BET host Marc Lamont Hill. “Thank you for sharing your wonderful gifts with us for so long …”


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