(BPRW) R&B Trailblazer Who Created hit, “Juicy Fruit” Passes Away at 76

(Black PR Wire) James Mtume, an R&B legend whose 1983 hit, “Juicy Fruit,” returned to the charts a decade later as #1 single of rap legend Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy,” died on Jan. 9. He was 76. His loss of life was confirmed by his publicist, Angelo Ellerbee.

Mtume’s musical genius ranged from disco to jazz, and in all places in between. Not to say his dramatic compositions for tv (“New York Undercover”) and movie (“Native Son”). “Juicy Fruit,” the largest hit from his self-titled R&B group, has been sampled numerous instances, most famously on Notorious B.I.G.’s traditional “Juicy.” Mtume additionally produced and co-wrote hit singles for Stephanie Mills (“Never Knew Love Like This Before”) and Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway (“The Closer I get To You”) in collaboration together with his musical accomplice and fellow Davis alum Reggie Lucas.

Mtume was born within the metropolis of cohesion, Philadelphia, because the son of saxophonist Jimmy Heath. Raised by his stepfather, Philly jazz pianist James Forman, the younger musician grew up with activist roots (he noticed Malcolm X communicate as a toddler) and moved to California within the mid-‘60s on a swimming scholarship. There, he joined the Black empowerment group, the U.S. Organization (whose founder, Maulana Karenga created the vacation Kwanzaa), and recorded his earliest solo albums beginning with “Alkebu-Lan – Land of the Blacks.”

According to NPR, after returning to the East Coast, Mtume (whose identify interprets as “messenger” in Swahili), performed with jazz band leaders similar to McCoy Tyner and Freddie Hubbard in addition to recording together with his uncle, Albert “Tootie” Heath on the “Kawaida” album. Around this time Mtume joined Miles Davis’ band for a four-year stint that included a few of the jazz legend’s most adventurous materials, together with “Dark Magus” and “Pangaea.”

In his 1989 autobiography, Miles, Davis famous Mtume’s influence on the heartbeat of his band: “With Mtume Heath and Pete Cosey joining us, most of the European sensibilities were gone from the band. Now the band settled down into a deep African thing, a deep African-American groove, with a lot of emphasis on drums and rhythm, and not on individual solos.”

In 1978, following dozens of jazz classes, Mtume shaped his self-named “sophistifunk” R&B-jazz ensemble with Lucas and vocalist Tawatha Agee, releasing the albums “Kiss This World Goodbye” (1978).

After 1980’s In Search of the Rainbow Seekers, the band launched 1983’s Juicy Fruit. The title monitor grew to become the band’s greatest hit, and it was famously sampled on the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy.” The band adopted it with two extra albums: 1984’s You, Me and He which spawned one other hit report and 1986’s Theater of the Mind.

Mtume was later credited on songs by Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly, and Okay-Ci and Jo-Jo. Mtume grew to become a radio character for brand spanking new York City’s KISS 98.7 FM. In 2019, he gave a TED Talk titled “Our Common Ground in Music.”

Following the information of his loss of life, Mtume was mourned on social media by the artists who cherished his music, together with Gangstarr’s DJ Premier, Talib Kweli and 

others. “Thank you James Mtume for all the wisdom & love & respect you’ve shown me & my brothers over the years,” Questlove wrote.

“Rest In Power to the great James Mtume,” Philadelphia DJ Cosmo Baker wrote on Twitter. “The South Philly native & prodigal son, Jazz ROYALTY (the son of the great Jimmy Heath) and music trailblazer & pioneer. His passing is truly a monumental loss.”

“Rest In Peace to the legendary James Mtume,” added BET host Marc Lamont Hill. “Thank you for sharing your tremendous gifts with us for so long…”


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