R.I.P. James Mtume

James Mtume has died at age 76. The songwriter and musician from Philadelphia had a career as a percussionist, leader, songwriter and producer. In 1969 he recorded his first albums as a leader and those endeavors included players like his uncle Albert Heath, Herbie Hancock and Don Cherry. He spent most of the ’70s working in bands with jazz luminaries Miles Davis, Art Farmer, Sonny Rollins, Eddie Henderson and McCoy Tyner. By the end of the decade, he and Reggie Lucas would collaborate on writing and producing songs for R&B stars. The two met in Davis’s band and toured with Roberta Flack for a number of years. Their partnership crafted classic songs for Phyllis Hyman, Stephanie Mills, Lou Rawls, The Spinners and Flack.

Mtume was busy working with Lucas during this time in the ’80s but he still managed to put together his own group. Tawatha Agee, also a Philadelphia native, was the main voice of Mtume and would record on all five of their albums. The title track from their 1983 album Juicy Fruit was a number one hit and signature song that had some controversy. Epic Records told James Mtume that radio would not play the song because of the line “You can lick me everywhere” which was replaced in the video with “Candy kisses everywhere.” The song  became even more famous in 1994 when it was sampled for “Juicy” by rapper The Notorious B.I.G. The song is now an essential sample continually used in pop music.

Mtume would eventually have 11 singles to chart including “You, Me & He,” “Breathless” and “Give It On Up (If You Want To.) They recorded five albums before disbanding in the late ’80s. In the middle of the decade, he produced the album You Might Be Surprised for Roy Ayers. Mtume was musically active in the ’90s writing and producing for Mary J. Blige and R. Kelly. He also composed the theme song to the television show New York Undercover.  After retirin from the music industr he hosted the Open Line radio show on WBLS for two decades until 2013 and continued his activist work. 






Valerie Simpson, Roberta Flack & Deniece Williams Among Those To Be Inducted Into The Women Songwriters Hall Of Fame

Valerie Simpson, Roberta Flack, Deniece Williams, Tawatha Agee and Klymaxx will all be members of the Women Songwriters Hall Of Fame inaugural class this year. Jeri Keever “Bunny” Hull, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Veryl Howard and two more women are also part of the list of inductees. The WSHOF’s mission is to “Honor women whose work represents the heritage and legacy of the world’s music songbook.” The induction ceremony will take place in Washington, D.C. at the National Museum Of Women In The Arts on June 25th. Tickets are on sale to attend the event in person as well as virtually and can be purchased here

Throwback: Gary Bartz-Keep Going On

Gary Bartz is an American saxophonist and clarinetist who started his career as a member of the Charles Mingus jazz workshop in the sixties. In that same decade he worked with Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln and Art Blakely where he made his recording debut on the Soul Finger album. It was during the Mingus workshop that he met McCoy Tyner and Eric Dolphy. When Tyner formed his Expansions band in 1968 Bartz became his alto saxophone player. Bartz formed his own bands and toured with Max Roach. Miles Davis hired him as a soloist for the Live-Evil recording sessions in 1970 and Bartz also assembled his Ntu Troop band that melded jazz, funk, soul and African folk music. He released five albums with this band from 1973-75 which were considered key works that have been referenced and sampled by musicians of all walks. “Keep Going On” is from his 1980 self-titled album Bartz and the song was co-written by Mtume collaborators James Mtume and Reggie Lucas. Tawatha Agee who was the singer for Mtume sang on this track which is considered one of Bartz’s strongest R&B offerings. Bartz continues to record and receive recognition for his work such as 1995’s Red and Orange Poems with Standin’ On The Corner being his most recent release. He can also be heard on Sa Ra’s latest album Nuclear Evolution: The Age Of Love.