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Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis
May 04 2022

2022 Inductee - Musical Excellence

Jimmy
Jam
&
Terry
Lewis

Biography

James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III and Terry Lewis are known for their studio magic, creating smooth, funky synth-laden grooves, as well as their signature style – dark sunglasses, black suits, and black fedora hats. Minneapolis natives, they joined forces while still in high school and soon found themselves rocketed into the orbit of rising superstar Prince as members of the band the Time. That period exposed them to the music business and touring, and how to perfect the sound of a band on the road and in the studio. Jam & Lewis became innovators of the Minneapolis sound, an exciting blend of jazz, soul, R&B, funk, disco, early punk, new wave, and dance. After Prince fired them for missing a gig (because they were busy producing other bands), they decided to take their production and songwriting skills and form Flyte Tyme Productions in 1982. What followed was a string of smash R&B dance floor hits for artists, including Klymaxx, Cheryl Lynn, Gladys Knight, Force M.D.’s, Cherrelle, and the S.O.S. Band. Their musical toolkit included the boom and pop of the 808 drum machine, scorching lead synthesizer lines, deep melodic basslines, and a total commitment to the groove of a song – a sound they referred to as the “funky bottom and the pretty top.”  

When Jam & Lewis next sought an artist to work with, they agreed on one name: Janet Jackson. The album Control (1986) gave them the chance to refine their songwriting and production into a killer counterpart to Janet’s lyrical and melodic mastery – and in the process they created the New Jack Swing style. What followed were over three decades of chart-topping Billboard singles and albums. 

Jam & Lewis created a production company, recording studio, and signature sound responsible for “making” an artist’s career – the songs and sounds that stick with fans forever. Their work in the studio has incorporated the newest available technologies and defined how entire generations of musicians created music. They pushed artists to new levels (Mary J. Blige’s No More Drama) and gave musicians a spark that revolutionized sonic explorations (the Human League’s Crash). They took the sound of “Minneapolis!” and made it a worldwide universal groove deeply rooted in the soul of Black music. 

Selected Discography

Klymaxx, “Wild Girls,” (1982) • S.O.S. Band, “Just Be Good to Me”(1983) • Cherrelle, “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” (1984) • Force M.D.’s, “Tender Love” (1985) • Janet Jackson, “Control,” “Nasty” (1986), “Miss You Much,” “Love Will Never Do” (Without You)” (1989), “That’s the Way Love Goes” (1993), “Together Again” (1997), “All for You” (2001), “No Sleeep” (2015) • The Human League, “Human” (1986) • New Edition, “If It Isn’t Love,” (1988) • The Time, “Jerk Out” (1990) • Sounds of Blackness, “Optimistic” (1991) • Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, “Scream” (1995) • Mary J. Blige, “No More Drama” (2001) • Usher, “U Remind Me” (2001) • Jam & Lewis, Volume One (2021) 

Influences

Prince, Parliament-Funkadelic, Chicago

Legacies

Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Teddy Riley

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