James Mtume

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James Mtume
Birth nameJames Forman
Also known asMtume
Born(1946-01-03)January 3, 1946
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedJanuary 9, 2022(2022-01-09) (aged 76)[1]
South Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • multi-instrumentalist
  • radio personality
  • record producer
InstrumentsVocals, percussionist, piano, keyboards, sampler, drums, guitar, bass guitar
Years active1961–2022
Associated acts

James Forman (January 3, 1946 – January 9, 2022),[2] known professionally as James Mtume, was an American jazz and R&B musician, songwriter, record producer, activist, and radio personality.[1]

He came to prominence as a jazz musician, working with Miles Davis between 1971 and 1975.[1] Mtume's R&B group, also called Mtume, is best known for the 1983 R&B hit song "Juicy Fruit", which has been repeatedly sampled.[1] Mtume the band also had a top-five R&B hit with the single "You, Me, and He".[1]

Life and career

James Forman was born on January 3, 1946, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[2] He was the son of jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath,[3] but was raised by his mother, Bertha Forman, and his stepfather, a Philadelphia local jazz pianist, James "Hen Gates" Forman.[4]

Mtume grew up in a musical environment with jazz musicians frequenting his parents' house. He learned to play piano and percussion; however, from his teenage years he was pursuing athletics as a swimmer, having achieved the title of the first black Middle Atlantic AAU champion in the backstroke, and in 1966 he entered Pasadena City College on a swimming scholarship.[3]

In 1966, Mtume joined the US Organization, a Black empowerment group founded by Hakim Jamal and Maulana Karenga, while a student at Pasadena City College. Mtume received his name, which means "messenger" in Swahili, from Karenga who gave members of the organization names to match their personality traits.[5] He was part of the group which celebrated the first Kwanzaa in 1966. In 1967 he co-edited The Quotable Karenga with Clyde Halisi, which has been called "the best expression of Karenga's ideas".[6] Mtume left the US Organisation in 1969.[7]

Mtume made two albums, Kawaida and Alekebulan: Land of the Blacks, intended to merge jazz and cultural identity.[8] Kawaida, which was recorded in December 1969, was Mtume's professional debut. He contributed four out of five compositions and was credited with naming the album which means "norm" in Swahili and represented the practice and philosophy of pan-African identity. Performers on the album included Don Cherry, Herbie Hancock, Biily Bonner, and his uncle Albert Heath.[9]

After his return from the West Coast he moved to New York City and had his first gigs as a sideman for McCoy Tyner (Asante album), Freddie Hubbard, and Miles Davis, whose group he wound up joining and playing in for the next few years.[3]

He and Mtume band member, fellow musician Reggie Lucas both won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Song for writing and producing fellow R&B artist Stephanie Mills' top-ten hit "Never Knew Love Like This Before", for which she also won a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.[10]

In July 2018, Mtume filed a lawsuit against Sony Music/Epic Records, hoping to reclaim the rights for two albums and his hit single "Juicy Fruit". Mtume claimed to hold the sole copyright of these recordings, while Sony insisted that the albums were made for hire.[11]

Personal life and death

Mtume was the father of music producers Damu Mtume and Fa Mtume.[12] He died in South Orange, New Jersey on January 9, 2022, at the age of 76.[1][2]


As leader

  • Alkebu-Lan: Land of The Blacks (Strata-East, 1972) - with Mtume Umoja Ensemble (Carlos Garnett - Tenor & Flute, Leroy Jenkins - Violin, Gary Bartz- Alto and Soprano Sax, Stanley Cowell - Piano, Buster Williams - Bass, Billy Hart - Drums, and Joe Lee Wilson, Eddie Micheaux, and Andy Bey - Vocals. Yusef Iman and Weusi Kuumba - Poets.
  • Rebirth Cycle (Third Street, 1977) - with Jean Carn, Stanley Cowell, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jimmy Heath, Cecil McBee, Leroy Jenkins, and Azar Lawrence.
  • Kiss This World Goodbye (Epic, 1978) - with Mtume
  • In Search of the Rainbow Seekers (Epic, 1980) - with Mtume
  • Juicy Fruit (Epic, 1983) - with Mtume
  • You, Me and He (Epic, 1984) - with Mtume
  • Theater of the Mind (Epic, 1986) - with Mtume

As sideman

With Gato Barbieri

With Miles Davis

With Art Farmer

With Carlos Garnett

With Jimmy Heath

With Eddie Henderson

with Harold Land

With Azar Lawrence

With Lonnie Liston Smith

With James Spaulding

With McCoy Tyner

With Buddy Terry

As composer

"The Closer I Get to You"(1977) written with Reggie Lucas. Performed by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway on Blue Lights in the Basement. Atlantic Records, 1977. "Back Together Again(1980)" written with Reggie Lucas. Performed by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway also.

As producer (with Reggie Lucas)

Produced by James Mtume

  • LeVertBloodline[14] (Atlantic Records, 1986)
  • Nu Romance Crew – Tonight (EMI America, 1987)
  • Tease – Rmember (Epic, 1988)
  • Kiara – To Change And/Or Make A Differnce (Arista, 1989)


  1. ^ a b c d e f Kellman, Andy. "Artist Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved January 16, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Pareles, Jon (January 11, 2022). "James Mtume, Whose 'Juicy Fruit' Became a Hip-Hop Beat, Dies at 76". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 12, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c "Interview: Mtume on Miles Davis, Juicy Fruit and Donny Hathaway's Last Recording Session". Red Bull Music Academy Daily. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
  4. ^ Tanenbaum, Michael (January 10, 2022). "South Philly native, jazz legend James Mtume dies at 76". PhillyVoice. Retrieved January 16, 2022.
  5. ^ Brown, Scot (2003). Fighting for US: Maulana Karenga, the US Organization, and Black Cultural Nationalism. NYU Press. p. 59. ISBN 9780814798782.
  6. ^ Joseph, Peniel E. (2013). The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era. Routledge. p. 341. ISBN 978-1136773471.
  7. ^ Widener, Daniel (2009). Black Arts West: Culture and Struggle in Postwar Los Angeles. Duke University Press. p. 216. ISBN 978-0822392620.
  8. ^ Widener, Daniel (January 1, 2009). Black Arts West: Culture and Struggle in Postwar Los Angeles. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0822392620.
  9. ^ Widener, Daniel (2009). Black Arts West: Culture and Struggle in Postwar Los Angeles. Duke University Press. p. 210. ISBN 978-0822392620.
  10. ^ "23rd Annual GRAMMY Awards (1980)". GRAMMY.com. November 28, 2017. Retrieved January 15, 2022.
  11. ^ Stutz, Colin (July 6, 2018). "James Mtume Sues Sony Music to Regain Rights to 'Juicy Fruit' & More Music". Billboard.
  12. ^ Neal, Mark Anthony (February 4, 2014). Songs in the Key of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation. Routledge. ISBN 9781135206802.
  13. ^ "You Know How to Love Me Phyllis Hyman". Allmusic. All Media Guide. Retrieved January 25, 2022.
  14. ^ "LEVERT - full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved January 27, 2022.

External links

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