Sad news to report: James Mtume, the prolific musician who not only provided hits for his namesake band, but also for other R&B legends, has joined the ancestors.
His son, producer Fa Mtume, confirmed the news to Pitchfork that his father passed on Sunday, January 9, less than a week after celebrating his 76th birthday. An official cause of death is not known at press time.
The son of jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath and stepson of pianist James Forman, Mtume was introduced to some of the greatest jazz artists at an early age. Contributing to records by Miles Davis, Ramsey Lewis, Herbie Hancock and more, he would debut his own band, Mtume, in 1978 with their Kiss This World Goodbye album. However, the band’s biggest success would come with the title track of third album, 1983’s Juicy Fruit. The track peaked at number one on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles chart and would be sampled over the years by The Notorious B.I.G., Keyshia Cole, Tamar Braxton, and many more.
Outside of his own work, Mtume was also a well-respected songwriter and producer, working with partner Reggie Lucas. Credits include The Closer I Get to You by Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, You Know How to Love Me by Phyllis Hyman, and Never Knew Love Like This Before by Stephanie Mills. In addition, he provided the musical score for the film Native Son and served as musical supervisor for the 90s cop drama New York Undercover.
According to the official statement from Radio Facts, James Mtume is survived by his wife Kamili Mtume; brother Jeffrey Forman; sons Faulu Mtume, Richard Johnson; daughters Benin Mtume, Eshe King, Ife Mtume, Sanda Lee; grandchildren Sukari Mtume, Yamani Mtume, Craig McCargo, Mazi Mtume, Aya Mtume, Jhasi Mtume.