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35 Years In, Legendary Duo Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis Finally Release Their Debut Album, 'Jam & Lewis Volume One'

Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis

Photo: Marselle Washington

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35 Years In, Legendary Duo Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis Finally Release Their Debut Album, 'Jam & Lewis Volume One'

GRAMMY-winning superproducers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis detail making their first full-length album, 'Jam & Lewis Volume One,' their Midas touch, and their groundbreaking involvement with the Recording Academy

GRAMMYs/Jul 9, 2021 - 10:23 pm

Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were actively writing and producing for their musical alter ego, The Secret, in 1986 when a demo they'd just completed caught the attention of an A&M Records executive. That minimal dance-pop track went on to become Janet Jackson's first Top Five hit, "What Have You Done For Me Lately," and put Jam and Lewis' personal recording careers on the backburner for awhile, their hit-making production and songwriting skills suddenly and incessantly in-demand.

The GRAMMY-winning Minneapolis natives' induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017 encouraged them to revisit their dream to make their own albums. The prolific twosome is finally releasing their debut full-length project, Jam & Lewis Volume One, today, July 9, via BMG in collaboration with their revamped label, Perspective Records. At approximately 50 minutes, the Oscar and Emmy nominees' 10-track effort features The Sounds of Blackness, Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Babyface, Boyz II Men, Usher, Charlie Wilson, The Roots, Heather Headley, Morris Day, and Jerome Benton.

"We would love it if people listened to the record from start to finish," Jam said. "The thought process for all of the artists on the album is if you say the artist name and mention it's a new song by them, what would you want that song to sound like?  We use the word 'newstalgia,' which is the discovery moment of hearing something new but that comforting moment of familiarity."

Jam and Lewis originally pivoted and morphed into accomplished songwriters and producers after departing from the Prince-produced funk outfit The Time in 1983. The fedora and sunglass-wearing pair's knack for tailor-making tunes regardless of genres under their imprint, Flyte Tyme Productions, resulted in timeless classics for Klymaxx, Cheryl Lynn, The Human League, The S.O.S. Band, Alexander O'Neal, Cherelle, Herb Alpert, Force MDs, Robert Palmer, George Michael, New Edition, Michael Jackson, Yolanda Adams, TLC, Vanessa Williams, Patti Labelle, Barry White, Elton John, and Gwen Stefani.

The multi-instrumentalists, who originally met as teenagers at a college readiness program, have placed 41 songs in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100; earned more number one singles (16!) than any other songwriter and producer in history, and received over 100 gold and platinum plaques. The winner of five GRAMMYs, Jam and Lewis earned 11 career Producer Of The Year nominations, more than any other in the history of the Recording Academy. In 2007, Jam became the Recording Academy's first Black chair of the board.

GRAMMY.com recently caught up with Jam and Lewis to hear details about making their first full-length album, their Midas touch, and their groundbreaking involvement with the Recording Academy.

What's that like coming full circle as sought-after producers and artists?

Jam: Being outfront feels interesting. We really are the assist guys; we set the artists up to score, so it's a little different being the scorers this time. We're prepared for it because we started out as artists with The Time 40 years ago, but our artistry is all really based on just making everybody look really good. So with all of the artists involved, they're the inspiration for what we do. The difference [on this album] is our name is in big letters instead of little letters, but we pretty much do the same thing.

Lewis: We're used to being Nostradamus for everyone. All of the artists that we work with, we're fans of those people: their art and of them as humans. The hang factor is always high there. This project is a reflection of that; we got to hang with the people that we love and make music.

The long story is after the music stops being created and you let it part from your hands, then the other things begin. That's the part I'm still trying to get used to because I'm used to it for someone else. People love the songs, but now they're asking about videos, who's doing the artwork for the album cover, or who's the stylist. I hadn't thought about that. We can see everyone else from a 360-degree cycle, so we have to incorporate other people to help us see the vision for what we can't see. That's a little strange because we've never had management or too much of the other fluff things that make successful artists. Being an artist is no joke; it's no day at the beach.

How did you decide on which artists to collaborate with for your debut project?

Jam: We made a wishlist, which is ever-evolving, of people that we wanted to work with. Terry always calls it "hang factories:" the people we enjoy just being around whether we're making music or just hanging out. Then subject to their availability or other factors that go into it, that's how we determined the ten we thought were good enough to have. We also thought we wanted to have something that was long enough.

It was a combination of people we've worked with before and really loved working with, a few people that we've never had the chance to work with before, so it was a good opportunity to do that. There's a volume two already in the works and hopefully a volume three and four. One of our goals overall is we want to leave music in a better place than we found it; we can do that by creating music with great artists. It elevates everything, especially Black music.

Did your track record with Janet Jackson influence this album in any way?

Jam: The Control album days that we worked on with Janet helped us realize the palette we had to work with was endless. It wasn't that we had to say we couldn't do uptempo or downtempo, in this key, a rock song or a sensual love song. Everything was open, and we got a sense of trust with each other right away. That's been the key.

[Her] albums up to All For You and later Unbreakable, we did the whole album. Not only were we able to do the songs on the album, but we were able to arrange them in the order with the little interludes in between, so it was almost like telling a story or reading a book. That's how great records were done.

What's Going On by Marvin Gaye is probably our favorite albums of all-time because of the way the songs are sequenced and how they flow together with continuous thought. That, to me, was always the brilliance of making albums. That's what we love about doing this Jam & Lewis album; it's an actual album. There's something that's very special about that.

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Is there a story that you're telling with the album sequencing?

Jam: The Sounds of Blackness was our musical foundation. It's very good for us to see our label logo for Perspective Records also. When we started Perspective 30 years ago this year, our idea was to give people the music that they needed, not necessarily what they wanted. The first foray into that was signing The Sounds of Blackness and the song, "Optimistic," which to this day is our favorite song that we've ever been involved with.

Our theory was if you're gonna build a nice tall building for success, the first thing to do is dig that foundation deep. Thirty years later as we come back to that Perspective label, it was that same idea. Let's dig that foundation deep. The Sounds of Blackness start our record with "Til' I Found You," which is appropriate to start off anything that you're doing. That was really important to us to try to do as the first thing you hear sonically. It sets the tone.

Lewis: It bookends. "Babylove" with Morris Day and Jerome Benton [who were also in The Time] as the last record is the beginning of our beginning. We have the beginning and the beginning at both ends of the record. That was very special to us and important to have that inclusive nature. Sounds of Blackness was the beginning of our record label 30 years ago, and [Morris Day and] The Time was the beginning of our artistry 40 years ago.

"When we started Perspective [Records] 30 years ago this year, our idea was to give people the music that they needed, not necessarily what they wanted. The first foray into that was signing The Sounds of Blackness and the song, 'Optimistic,' which to this day is our favorite song that we've ever been involved with." Jimmy Jam

How did the coronavirus pandemic and social climate affect plans for the album release?

Lewis: The last year was a little inconvenient. I used the last year to learn about things and to do things that I never had time to do. When people started talking about getting back to normal, I always say normal was overrated. Normal was not having enough time to spend with your family, running from here to there, being in meetings about meetings. I'm just not that guy.

There's always been racial unrest; it's magnified now because everybody slowed down enough to visualize it. The world is paying attention at the same time. When does that happen with the way the world works now? People had time off from work, so they had time to march. If those things happen six months from now, I don't know if the same results will come. How we handle that is we stay diligent and get over people's preferences. If you can't want for someone else the same things that you want for you and your family, then you don't deserve it. I want everybody to have the same opportunities that I have. If you got the goods, bring it on. It's enough for everybody.

Jam: Ditto. What he said.

What's your relationship like with the Recording Academy?

Jam: When we got involved with the GRAMMYs probably around '86, we were told if we joined the Academy, then we could vote for ourselves. We got nominated for Producer Of The Year [in 1987], voted for ourselves, and won. It was great, and it set us on a path where we have to live up to that.

Someone asked me about being on the board. I'd always thought of the organization as a one-night-a-year awards show. I didn't realize that year-round work was going into advocacy, music education, fundraising for schools and instruments, and MusiCares. When I got involved, I felt the music community was my community. I ran and ended up becoming vice chair, took that experience and ended up becoming chair. I ran uncontested. It was great, and it ushered in the 50th anniversary of the GRAMMYs.

I was the first African American chair of the GRAMMYs. One thing on my agenda was always diversity; membership was important because we're a member organization. There's nothing like receiving an award from your peers. What was cool was after becoming chairman, Harvey Mason jr, the new CEO, said the 50th anniversary when I was honored planted the seed in him. He knew someday he'd like to get involved and do something.

To have that inspiration for people is really the best thing that came out of it: for people to see me and know they can make a difference and get involved. I love the organization, but we're only as good as our members, and we have great members. That's the beauty of the Recording Academy. We're more relevant now than we've ever been. We're on a great path with great leadership, and I couldn't be more proud to be involved with the organization.

"It's great to be a part of the fabric of something great, and music is that great thing... As Jam said, it's a connector and what connects us all. To be a part of that is one of the most awesome feelings in the world, to think that we've added something to the world that no one can ever subtract. I know we've added some good music to the world because that was our passion; that's the gift that God gave us." Terry Lewis

What crosses your mind anytime people call you legends or icons?

Lewis: With music being the soundtrack of life, it's just great to be a part of people's lives. It's great to be a part of the fabric of something great, and music is that great thing. I really don't understand for the life of me why people don't wanna buy music anymore, but so be it. We just gotta figure out a new paradigm. Music is part of the fabric of who we are. We would live in a terrible world if we didn't have music. If we didn't have melody or just couldn't hear it, that would be tragic.

As Jam said, it's a connector and what connects us all. To be a part of that is one of the most awesome feelings in the world, to think that we've added something to the world that no one can ever subtract. I know we've added some good music to the world because that was our passion; that's the gift that God gave us. It feels really really awesome.

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ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Ant Clemons

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ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Singer/songwriter Ant Clemons puts his own spin on Bill Withers' immortal "Ain't No Sunshine" in an exclusive performance for ReImagined At Home.

GRAMMYs/Jun 15, 2021 - 08:13 pm

Why has Bill Withers' immortal hit, "Ain't No Sunshine," endured for decades? And, furthermore, why does it seem set to reverberate throughout the ages?

Could it be because it's blues-based? Because it's relatable to anyone with a pulse? Because virtually anyone with an ounce of zeal can believably yowl the song at karaoke?

Maybe it's for all of those reasons and one more: "Ain't No Sunshine" is flexible

In the latest episode of ReImagined At Home, check out how singer/songwriter Ant Clemons pulls at the song's edges like taffy. With a dose of vocoder and slapback, Clemons recasts the lonesome-lover blues as the lament of a shipwrecked android.

Giving this oft-covered soul classic a whirl, Clemons reminds music lovers exactly why Withers' signature song has staying power far beyond his passing in 2020. It will probably be a standard in 4040, too.

Check out Ant Clemons' cosmic, soulful performance of "Ain't No Sunshine" above and click here to enjoy more episodes of ReImagined At Home.

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Ariana Grande Donates Proceeds From Atlanta Show To Planned Parenthood

Ariana Grande

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

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Ariana Grande Donates Proceeds From Atlanta Show To Planned Parenthood

"Ariana Grande's generous donation comes at a critical time—in Georgia and across the country, anti-women's health politicians are trying to ban all safe, legal abortion," Dr. Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement

GRAMMYs/Jun 12, 2019 - 10:56 pm

Today, Planned Parenthood confirmed that GRAMMY winner Ariana Grande has donated the proceeds from her June 8 concert in Atlanta, around $250,000, to the reproductive health non-profit. The contribution follows several Southern states, including Georgia, passing restrictive anti-abortion bills in May.

"Ariana Grande's generous donation comes at a critical time—in Georgia and across the country, anti-women's health politicians are trying to ban all safe, legal abortion," Dr. Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement to People, who broke the news. 

Wen, who is a medical doctor and the former Baltimore City Health Commissioner, spoke to the critical timing of Grande's donation, at a time when lawmakers are rolling back years of women's rights legislation:

"This is not what the American people want, nor is it something they'll stand for. Thanks to inspiring support like hers, Planned Parenthood can continue to fight back—in the courts, in Congress, in state houses, and in the streets—against these dangerous attacks on people's health and lives. We are so grateful to Ariana for her longstanding commitment to supporting women's rights and standing with Planned Parenthood to defend access to reproductive health care. We won't stop fighting—no matter what."

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As People and other outlets point out, the donation follows the singer's response to hate speech made outside of the Atlanta concert. Ari fans tweeted a video of a protester outside of the venue making homophobic, sexist and racist comments over a P.A. system to the young women. Grande commented on the post, writing: "man... saddened but not surprised by this one bit. I'm so sorry any of my fans had to encounter this. we will do our best to ensure this doesn't happen again. proud of u all for not fighting / engaging violently. never worth it. wishing him peace & a healed heart cause girl yikes."

The Atlanta show was one of the stops on the pop star's Sweetener World Tour, which continues across North America until mid-July, after which she'll headline Lollapalooza on Aug. 4, then take the tour across the pond to London on Aug. 17 for its European leg.

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EDC 2019: Alison Wonderland, TOKiMONSTA, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond, Tiësto, More

Alison Wonderland

Photo: Mauricio Santana/Getty Images

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EDC 2019: Alison Wonderland, TOKiMONSTA, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond, Tiësto, More

The world-renowned EDM fest has released the lit roster of over 240 artists for its 23rd annual event, set to return to its ninth year in Las Vegas from May 17–19

GRAMMYs/Mar 28, 2019 - 04:55 am

Today Insomniac, which hosts the now-global Electric Daisy Carnival and other major EDM events, announced the highly anticipated lineup for its flagship Las Vegas fest, set to take place May 17–19 this year. EDC 2019 is positively stacked, featuring GRAMMY winners Diplo, David Guetta and Tiësto, plus GRAMMY nominees TOKiMONSTA, Paul Oakenfold, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond and Kaskade.

Deadmau5 will be making his first return to the fest since 2010, bringing his new "Cube 3.0" stage setup, and Guetta will be back for his first time since the 2012 event. Australian singer/songwriter DJ/producer extraordinaire Alison Wonderland, plus GRAMMY-nominated rave icons Steve Aoki, Armin van Buuren will also bring fire to the three-day event.

Unlike a typical music festival lineup, EDC lists theirs alphabetically by day, giving way to a treasure hunt to the many gems across the lines of names. Underground techno queens Charlotte De Witte, ANNA and Amelie Lens will all perform at the event, which has eight(!) stages, along with fellow techno heavy-hitter Adam Beyer.

South African DJ/producer and underground house legend Black Coffee will also perform, as well as fellow house heavyweights Green Velvet, Patrick Topping and GRAMMY nominee Eric Prydz. Green Velvet will be offering two sets, one as Get Real, his project with Detroit legend Claude VonStroke.

Several artists will be hopping on the decks together, including Topping, who will be doing a B2B set (a.k.a. back-to-back, or collab set, for those not up on the rave lingo) with fellow British DJ Eats Everything. U.K. dubstep stalwarts Skream and Rusko are on the lineup for an "old skool dubstep set," which, as Your EDM put it, is "absolutely unheard of."

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But wait, who are the headliners? Pasquale Rotella, CEO and co-founder of Insomniac, believes that headliners are everyone that attends the festival, spreads the love and makes all the magic possible.

"Being a Headliner means looking at the world a little differently, and seeing beauty and inspiration everywhere you look. It’s about lifting up the people around you and making time for your family and friends. This is a journey we all take together—always connected and committed to one another," Rotella said in a statement on Insomniac's website.

If you want to get your dance on and check out the carnival rides, interactive art and plenty of lights and lasers with EDC in Vegas, you're in luck; tickets are still available. Check out EDC's website for more info.

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Recordings By Janet Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Odetta & More Inducted Into The National Recording Registry

Janet Jackson

Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images

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Recordings By Janet Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Odetta & More Inducted Into The National Recording Registry

Selections by Albert King, Labelle, Connie Smith, Nas, Jackson Browne, Pat Metheny, Kermit the Frog and others have also been marked for federal preservation

GRAMMYs/Mar 25, 2021 - 02:37 am

The Librarian of Congress Carla Haden has named 25 new inductees into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. They include Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation 1814,” Louis Armstrong’s “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade,” Nas’ “Illmatic,” Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration,” Kermit the Frog’s “The Rainbow Connection” and more.

“The National Recording Registry will preserve our history through these vibrant recordings of music and voices that have reflected our humanity and shaped our culture from the past 143 years,” Hayden said in a statement. “We received about 900 public nominations this year for recordings to add to the registry, and we welcome the public’s input as the Library of Congress and its partners preserve the diverse sounds of history and culture.”

The National Recording Preservation Board is an advisory board consisting of professional organizations and experts who aim to preserve important recorded sounds. The Recording Academy is involved on a voting level. The 25 new entries bring the number of musical titles on the registry to 575; the entire sound collection includes nearly 3 million titles. Check out the full list of new inductees below:

National Recording Registry Selections for 2020

  1. Edison’s “St. Louis tinfoil” recording (1878)

  2. “Nikolina” — Hjalmar Peterson (1917) (single)

  3. “Smyrneikos Balos” — Marika Papagika (1928) (single)

  4. “When the Saints Go Marching In” — Louis Armstrong & his Orchestra (1938) (single)

  5. Christmas Eve Broadcast--Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill (December 24, 1941)

  6. “The Guiding Light” — Nov. 22, 1945

  7. “Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues” — Odetta (1957) (album)

  8. “Lord, Keep Me Day by Day” — Albertina Walker and the Caravans (1959) (single)  

  9. Roger Maris hits his 61st homerun (October 1, 1961)

  10. “Aida” — Leontyne Price, et.al. (1962) (album)

  11. “Once a Day” — Connie Smith (1964) (single)

  12. “Born Under a Bad Sign” — Albert King (1967) (album)

  13. “Free to Be…You & Me” — Marlo Thomas and Friends (1972) (album)

  14. “The Harder They Come” — Jimmy Cliff (1972) (album)

  15. “Lady Marmalade” — Labelle (1974) (single)

  16. “Late for the Sky” — Jackson Browne (1974) (album)

  17. “Bright Size Life” — Pat Metheny (1976) (album)

  18. “The Rainbow Connection” — Kermit the Frog (1979) (single)

  19. “Celebration” — Kool & the Gang (1980) (single)

  20. “Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs” — Jessye Norman (1983) (album)

  21. “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814” — Janet Jackson (1989) (album)

  22. “Partners” — Flaco Jiménez (1992) (album)

  23. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”/”What A Wonderful World” — Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (1993) (single)

  24. “Illmatic” — Nas (1994) (album)

  25. “This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money” (May 9, 2008)

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