‘Suspicious Minds’ songwriter Mark James dies at 83


Mark James, the genre-defying Grammy Award-winning songwriter whose hits include “Suspicious Minds,” “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Always on My Mind,” performed Saturday at the Nash Died at home in Vail. He is 83 years old.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Sami Zambon.

Over the years, stars including Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson have lent their voices to Mr. James’s library of songs.

His hit career began with 1968’s “New York Woman Eyes,” cut by country and pop producer BJ Thomas. Mr. Thomas, Mr. James’s lifelong friend, then recorded Mr. James’s 1968 song celebrating new love, “Hooked on a Feeling,” which reached the top five on the charts that year. In 1974, Swedish rock band Blue Swede released a version of the song, which again reached the top five.

James was catapulted to a different level in 1969 when Elvis recorded “Suspicious Minds,” a song James had first recorded and released as a single the previous year. Ives’ version reached number one in 27 countries, becoming one of his biggest hits and his final number one single. The song was included in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

“Always On My Mind,” which Mr. James co-wrote with Wayne Carson and Johnny Christopher, became one of his most acclaimed works. According to the Texas Traditional Songwriters Association, Brenda Lee recorded the first version in 1972, and Elvis later released his version, John John Wesley Ryles made it a Top 20 country hit in 1979.

However, it was Mr. Nelson’s 1982 version that won “Always On My Mind” Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Best Country Song and the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year Award. He was subsequently inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.

Mr. James’s library of songs has been recorded by artists including Michael Bublé, Jay-Z, The Pet Shop Boys, Bill Withers and The Fine Young Cannibals. They have appeared in the movies “Reservoir Dogs,” “Lilo and Stitch” and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” series.

Mr. James is inducted into the New York Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Nashville Country Hall of Fame and the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1999, music rights management company Broadcast Music Inc. included “Hooked on a Feeling,” “Suspicious Minds” and “Always on My Mind” on its list of the 100 greatest songs of the 20th century.

Mr. James was born Francis Rodney Zambon on November 29, 1940, in Houston. (The Houston Chronicle reported that he was known as Mark James because when he started playing music in public, Houston club owners “didn’t like the sound of Francis Zambon’s voice.”) His survivors Including his wife, Karen Zambon; his daughters, Sammie Zambon and Dana Zambon; his brother, Rollin; and two grandchildren.

Elvis Presley recorded a total of five of Mr. James’s songs and named two of his albums after them: “Raising on Rock” and “Moody Blue.”

In an interview with The Tennessean, Mr. James recalled the moment Elvis was booked at his studio in Memphis and he realized “Suspicious Minds” was perfect for him.

“I turned around in my chair and it was like I saw a golden number one song and I knew this was the song I’d been looking for,” he said, adding, “I even wanted to shake Elvis and Say, ‘This is a great record for you, man, but I know everybody in the world has probably said that to him, so all I can do is tell the people around him. ‘Let him cut this, it’ll be great for him!’



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