R&B Trailblazer James Mtume Reportedly Dead at Age 75

Today the music industry mourns the loss of R&B trailblazer, Jazz and Funk Legend, James Mtume.

James Mtume
The alt text for this image is the same as the title. In most cases, that means that the alt attribute has been automatically provided from the image file name.  (Photo by David Corio/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

His niece Lisa Lucas confirmed the news on Twitter:

“So much loss. So much grief. Rest in power to Uncle Mtume. My late father’s partner-in-crime[.] The co-creator of the songs of my life (and about my birth!). He was [an] essential part of the life of the man who made me, therefore me too. Gone now. He will be dearly, eternally missed.”

Born James Forman in 1946, Mtume grew up in a musical environment with jazz musicians frequenting his parents’ house. He learned to play piano and percussion, despite having an athletic scholarship for swimming to Pasadena City College in 1966.

He appeared on numerous projects with a variety of other legendary musicians, including Duke Ellington, Lonnie Liston Smith, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sonny Rollins, to name a few.

From there he made his transition from jazz to R&B. His R&B band Mtume was best known for 1983 hit “Juicy Fruit” which topped the black singles chart for eight weeks and later sampled by the Notorious B.I.G, Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys and more.

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His success did not there. He also co-wrote “Never Knew Love Love Like This Before” for Grammy winner Stephanie Mills and “The Closer I Get to You” for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway.

Years later Mtume backed away from the music business and made his way into political activism by becoming a radio personality.  He was part of a three-man front with the late Bob Slade and Judge Bob Pickett on “Open Line” over New York station WRKS (98.7 KISS-FM).

James Mtume
(Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)

He is survived by his son Fa Mtume.