James Mtume, Famous Musician, Songwriter, Activist, Dies at 76 | national news

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The Mtume family announced the passing of James Mtume (Forman) on Sunday January 9, 2022.

Biological son of the great jazz saxophone Jimmy Heath, James Mtume was raised by his parents James and Bertha Forman. He continued swimming training while attending Pasadena City College and was recruited for the 1968 Olympics, but decided to take a different direction and joined the US Cultural Nationalist Organization. It was at this time that he took the namesake of Mtume (Swahili for “messenger”).

In the early 1970s, Mtume turned to music as a solid percussionist who then toured and recorded with Miles Davis. Mtume would eventually record with his own band the Mtume Umoja Ensemble as well as in sessions with Duke Ellington, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins and a host of other jazz greats.

By the mid-1970s with his longtime musical partner Reggie Lucas, Mtume forged a path of combining soul, jazz and funk (he called it “Sophistifunk”). The result was a series of successful productions with Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, native of St. Louis (“The Closer I Get to You”, “Back Together Again”), Phyllis Hyman (“You Know How to Love Me” ) and Stephanie Mills (“Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin?”, “I’ve never known love like this before”.)

In the early 1980s, Mtume formed the band that bore their namesake and created five best-selling albums as well as 11 R&B hits, including the # 1 multi-platinum hit “Juicy Fruit” (1982) and the Top 3 hit ” You, Me and He ”(1984). It was around this time that Mtume took his “Sophistifunk” sound and combined it with the emerging technology of drum machines and synthesizers.

In the 1990s, Mtume made his way into the world of soundtracks, creating music for films such as the soundtrack for the film “Native Son” and was the music supervisor of the television series “New York Undercover. (Producing stage music at the fictional Natalie’s nightclub). At the same time, Mtume’s activism continued through his role as co-host of New York’s WBLS-FM community talk series, Open Line, a role he held for eighteen years.

The millennium saw Mtume share his knowledge of the music business in arenas such as the Red Bull Academy in Tokyo and the TED Talks.

James Mtume is survived by his wife Kamili Mtume; Brother Jeffrey Forman; son Faulu Mtume, Richard Johnson; daughters Benin Mtume, Eshe King, Ife Mtume, Sanda Lee; grandchildren Sukari Mtume, Yamani Mtume, Craig McCargo, Mazi Mtume, Aya Mtume, Jhasi Mtume.

This obituary was provided by the family of James Mtume

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