His representative, Angelo Ellerbee, confirmed to USA TODAY on Monday that Mtume died on Sunday, six days after his birthday. His cause of death is not yet known.
Mtume was born on January 3, 1946 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, into an illustrious family of musicians: his father was saxophonist Jimmy Heath, his uncles were bassist Percy Heath and drummer Albert Heath, and he was raised by his stepfather James Forman. a pianist
Mtume spoke about his musical education in an interview with him Associated press in 2018, describing how Forman exposed him to great musicians.
“I would say that I had a very special childhood growing up,” he said. “My biological father, James Heath, is a world-renowned saxophonist for the famous Heath Brothers. But the father who raised me, and I don’t use the word stepfather, was James Forman, who was also a jazz musician. He played with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and all those people. So when I’m growing up, maybe at dinner one night, there’s Dizzy Gillespie, another night, there’s John Coltrane (or) Thelonious Monk.
“I was only 10, so I didn’t know how deep it was, but I knew it was extraordinary to hear these conversations with these great jazz musicians. At the same time, I’m growing up hearing the birth of R&B and soul, there’s James Brown, The Temptations, Motown, so I had a very interesting musical line-up to come. “
In 1966, Mtume went to Pasadena College on a swimming scholarship and was drawn to the cultural and political changes taking place in the country at the time. After joining a branch of the Black Power Movement, the African Mulana Kurenga (author and creator of the Pan-African and African-American holiday of Kwanzaa) gave him a new surname in Swahili: “Mtume” which means messenger or prophet.
Throughout his career, Mtume collaborated with various jazz giants, including Duke Ellington, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, and Sonny Rollins. In 1971, Miles Davis saw Mtume at a New York City performance at the Village Vanguard and shortly thereafter invited him to join his band. Mtume toured with Davis for five years.
“People ask me, where did I go to school, and I say, ‘MD University,’ you understand?” He told the Associated Press. “The main lesson I learned from Miles is to never stand still, always keep going. He said, ‘When you cross a bridge, burn it down. So you can’t even go back even if you wanted to. That was his message: keep pushing the limits of music. “
And that’s exactly what Mtume did, forming his own musical genre, a combination of soul, jazz, and funk that he called “Sophistifunk,” in the 1970s.
He used this style to create several hit songs, such as “The Closer I Get to You” and “Back Together Again” by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, and “Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin ‘” and “Never Knew Love Like” by Stephanie. Mills. This Before, “the latter of which earned Mtume and guitarist / partner Reggie Lucas the Grammy Award for best R&B song.
In the 1980s, Mtume formed the R&B group of the same name. The group had five best-selling albums and eleven R&B hits. With Tawatha Agee on lead vocals, the band’s salacious 1982 song “Juicy Fruit” became a heavily sampled tune and was used as the basis for at least 70 songs, most notably by The Notorious BIG on their first single. solo, “Juicy”. Faith Evans for “Faithfully”, Keyshia Cole on her single “Let It Go” and Tamar Braxton on her hit single “The One”.
Mtume also composed film scores, such as 1986’s “Native Son,” and served as music supervisor for the 1994 Fox crime drama “New York Undercover.” He also co-hosted the “Open Line” community talk series, previously on New York City station WBLS FM, for 18 years.
The Prophet is survived by his wife Full Prophet; brother Jeffrey Forman; sons Faulu Apóstol and Richard Johnson; daughters Benin Apostle, Eshe King, Ife Prophet and Sanda Lee; and grandchildren Sugar Prophet, Yamani Prophet, Craig McCargo, Water Prophet, Aya Prophet, and Jhasi Prophet.
Contributing: Associated Press
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism