Jimmy Lewis Biography

19 November 1939, USA, d. 10 September 2004, USA. In his youth Lewis travelled extensively, leading to doubts about his place of birth. Some sources suggest this was Nashville, Tennessee, although Itta Bena, Mississippi, seems more likely. While still young, he settled in Los Angeles where he became interested in making a career in music, in particular developing a talent for writing lyrics. He made records for various small labels, enjoying modest success for Era Records with ‘Wait Until Spring’ and ‘What Can I Do Now’. In the mid-60s he joined Bill Pinkney, Gerhart Thrasher and Bobby Hollis in the Drifters. 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. Lewis also recorded several 45s for Charles’ Tangerine Records and continued writing material for Charles into the 90s.

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.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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