Jimmy Lewis (19 November, 1937* - 10 September 2004) was a United States soul musician, songwriter and producer whose songs include "Message to the Ladies", "That Won't Stop Me from
James E. Lewis was born in the tiny delta town of Itta Bena near Greenwood, Mississippi but spent most of his life in Los Angeles. For someone whose sound is so steeped in the gospel tradition, it comes as quite a surprise that his introduction to music came not through the church, but through a friend who ran a car club in LA! Somewhere along the line he hooked-up with his first writing partner, Clifford Chambers. They worked together right through the 60s and together with James Carmichael (later to find fame as producer of the Commodores, the Jackson 5 and Lionel Richie) they produced a small string of 45s, the first being ‘Goodbye Sorrow’on Cyclone Records in 1962. A year later there were three releases for J J Jones’ Four “J” record label.
One track ‘Wait Until Spring’ was picked-up for wider distribution, over a year later, by Era Records and did quite well. It was obvious from these fine, but generally derivative recordings that Little Richard, Ray Charles and long-time hero Sam Cooke were the influences on Lewis’ music. It was also apparent that here was a lyricist who held great promise
A second Era release, the rated mover, ‘What Can I Do Now’ further cemented his progress and his voice caught the ear of Bill Pinkney, one of the original Drifters, (who at that time also included, Gerhart Thrasher, Bobby Hollis and Bobby Hendricks), and Lewis joined the group replacing Hendricks as lead singer from 1963-65. He was also to appear with one of the many Drifters conglomerates in the mid 70s.
Later in the 60s, he teamed up with Ray Charles to record a duet, ‘If It Wasn’t For Bad Luck’. Lewis’ relationship with Charles was very successful and in 1969 he was co-composer and arranger for Charles’ Grammy Award-nominated Doing His Thing.
Although Lewis recorded as a raw and emotional soul singer, he is best remembered as a writer of soul lyrics, collaborating with Clifford Chambers, Arthur Adams, Frank O. Johnson, Raymond Jackson and Rich Cason among several composers. Artists who have sung his songs,often on record, are Bobby Bland, Solomon Burke, Ry Cooder, Rita Coolidge, Leon Haywood, Z.Z. Hill, Albert King, Latimore, Denise La Salle, Frankie Lee, Little Richard, Johnnie Taylor, Ted Taylor, and Bobby Womack.
Among songs in Lewis’ repertoire, many of which are his own compositions, are ‘No Chicken Wings’, ‘String Bean’, ‘Stop Half Loving These Women’, ‘I’m Just Doing To You (What You Done To Me)’, ‘Help Me Understand You’, ‘The Love Doctor’, ‘How Long Is A Heartache Supposed To Last’, ‘It Ain’t What’s On The Woman’, ‘Betty This And Betty That’, ‘Still Wanna Be Black Again’, ‘Don’t Send A Girl To Do A Woman’s Job’, ‘Wife #1, Wife #2’ and ‘That Baby Ain’t Black Enough’.
In the early 90s, Lewis started his own label, Miss Butch Records, on which he recorded Peggy Scott-Adams, ‘I’m Willing To Be A Friend’ and ‘Bill’, and Chuck Strong, as well as himself through into the year before his death.
Initially diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas in the Nineties, the disease had spread to his liver. Jimmy died at his home in Los Angeles, California on 10 September 2004.
(Info edited mainly from The Encyclopedia of Popular Music & Ace CD liner notes & Rock Obituaries)