Flyte_Tyme_2Jam and Lewis

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Jam and LewisJimmy Jam & Terry Lewis – Jam & Lewis – Jimmy & Terry – Terry & Jimmy – James Harris III and Terry Lewis: no matter the moniker, you recognize and bow to their immaculately suited and lidded profile.  The duo represents excellence, conscience and daring in pop music, as evidenced by their 30th anniversary with ASCAP – The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

Jam & Lewis both sprang from musical training that began by absorbing the best of the Pop, Rock and Soul music on the radio in their Minneapolis youth, fortified by fundamental music education that they gleaned in the public school system.  Though Jam’s love of music first led him to be a club DJ, he also loved playing and composing on the piano which led to him joining and participating in all the creativity (and anxiety) that comes with communally “being in a band.”  Along with Terry – first in Flight Time then The Time – they learned what it meant to shape one’s compositions through the sounding board of others, which led to them recognizing in each other the qualities – musically, personally and professionally – that would make them a solid and productive team of two.

Quite adept as players, when they first rolled the dice by moving to Los Angeles – sleeping on living room floors and sinking all their money in technology of the era – they embraced drum machines and synthesizers, finding highly musical ways to integrate and exploit their timely sounds – evidenced in everything from rapper Ice-T’s “Cold Wind Madness” to early S.O.S. Band joints like “High Hopes” and “Just Be Good To Me.”

When they linked up with industry godfather Clarence Avant’s Tabu Records, they showed loyalty by reaching out to their old band mate Alexander O’Neal yet were equally effective with a complete stranger, Cherrelle, because they tailored what they were doing specifically for what each artist had to offer.  This bore out be it a one-off masterpieces for Staten Island crooner quintet Force MDs (“Tender Love”) and Sheffield England’s Human League “(Human” – used in a series of Liberty Mutual insurance TV spots) or the budding woman they shepherded to superstardom over six amazing albums, Ms. Janet Jackson.  Not only do they get inside each artist’s head to compose songs embraceable as their own, each still has signature elements alerting the astute, “That’s a Jam & Lewis song right there!”

Inspired by as opposed to repulsed by Hip-Hop, the duo became masters of one of the genre’s biggest contributions, sampling, only taking it miles ahead by isolating elements (the guitar from Sly & The Family Stone’s “Thank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin” on Janet’s “Rhythm Nation”), replaying parts (Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” on Chanté Moore’s “I Started Crying”), overlays (America’s “Ventura Highway” and Erik Satie’s “First Gymnopédie” on Janet’s “Someone To Call My Lover”) and well-placed showcases [Paul Riser’s strings from Diana Ross & The Supremes’ “Someday We’ll Be Together” on Janet’s “If”).

Jam & Lewis constantly reinvested in their company growing from Flyte Tyme Productions to Perspective Records.  When they launched the latter, they didn’t sign quick fix flash in the pan acts.  They signed an all-Black band still in the game today (Mint Condition), a choir (Sounds of Blackness which launched Ann Nesby) and a four man vocal group with an upright bassist (Solo), among others.  Clearly, they hurled themselves some healthy challenges…fearlessly!

The core of it all are Harris & Lewis’ songs…many that were perfect for the times in which they were released and a great percentage of those that will last the Sands of Time – from “Can You Stand the Rain” (New Edition), “Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)” (Janet’s sex-down that jazz man Stanley Clarke covered two years later and STILL plays in concert like new music), “Saturday Love” (Alexander O’Neal and Cherrelle’s song named best soul duet of all-time by Vibe Magazine), “Pandemonium” (title track of The Time’s first non-Prince Svengali’d album that remains a highlight whenever they reunite on stage as they did so gloriously for a residency at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas) to Mariah Carey’s  “Thank God I Found You,” Usher’s “You Remind Me,” the legendary Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson team-up “Scream,” Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama”…“And On And On.”

With Jimmy Jam just stepping down from a high profile post within The Recording  Academy – remaining relevant while taking a Bird’s eye view of the youth-dominated music industry of today) and Terry quietly overseeing matters in Flyte Tyme’s Santa Monica, California offices, admirers on the outside never count these gentlemen out of the crazy race that is “The Biz.”  Truth be told, all it would take is a generous jigger of Jam & Lewis’ patented “Chili Sauce” to get things in Soul-Pop music (one and the same today) back to being kinda right.

Written by Scott Galloway and originally reported in

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