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James Mtume (1946–2022), legendary jazz and R&B musician

by Kirk Fox

James Mtume was a legendary jazz and R&B percussionist, producer, and composer known for the hit single ‘Juicy Fruit.’    

Jazz and R&B legend

James Mtume (born James Heath) was an influential jazz and R&B percussionist, composer, and producer. He was the son of legendary jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath but was raised by his stepfather, jazz pianist James Forman. He changed his name in college to Mtume which is the Swahili word for messenger. He worked with McCoy Tyner and was a member of Miles Davis’s group in the 1970s. He formed the band Mtume with musician Reggie Lucas and singer Tawatha Agee, releasing a series of jazz/funk/R&B records in the 1970s and 1980s. His composition ‘Juicy Fruit,” was a hit for Mtume in 1983, selling over a million copies. The song has been sampled by many popular artists, most famously on Notorious B.I.G.’s hit song ‘Juicy.’ He and Lucas won a Grammy for writing and producing Stephanie Mills’ hit song ‘Never Knew Love Like This Before.’

Tributes to James Mtume

Full Obituary: Billboard

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