COVER STORY | Don’t call it a comeback, they’ve been here for years! In nearly 40 years, legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have worked with every notable singer under the sun. From origins as members of The Time, the Minneapolis duo defined their own signature sound that blends soulful melodies with stylish live instrumentation.
Today, the hitmakers released Jam & Lewis Volume I, their debut album under a new deal inked with BMG. Although R&B lovers have cherished their indelible contributions for decades, this will be the first time that we see the pair credited as artists. Preceded by two singles, “He Don’t Know Nothin’ Bout It” featuring fellow R&B super-producer, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, and “Somewhat Loved” featuring Mariah Carey, the debut LP also features iconic collaborations with Usher, Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton, Charlie Wilson, Morris Day and more. In celebration of one of the greatest production duos of all time, let’s review their most memorable compositions in 90’s R&B.
Janet Jackson – That’s The Way Love Goes
Departing from the socially conscious and military-strong Rhythm Nation, Janet Jackson explored a newfound, sensual femininity on 1993’s Janet. The debut single, “That’s The Way Love Goes”, was a sexy kick-back that remains just as hypnotic as its release date. Laying chords over James Brown’s “Papa Don’t Take No Mess,” Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis delivered a funky yet jazzy score that set the scene for Jackson’s longest-running No. 1 hit, earning her a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song.
Patti LaBelle – The Right Kinda Lover
Patti snapped and gave us a bop with this one! Co-produced and co-written by James “Big Jim” Wright and Sounds of Blackness’ Ann Nesby, “Right Kinda Lover” is an energized, confident and catchy smash by the Queen of the Divas. Under the helm of Jam & Lewis, Miss Patti cooks up a scrumptious salute to the man in her life, volleying from tender tones to soaring soprano. Appearing on both the soundtrack to Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop III and her own LP, Gems, “Right Kinda Lover” made all the right waves on the Billboard, R&B/Hip-Hip and Dance charts.
Sounds of Blackness – Optimistic
When Jam and Lewis took Janet Jackson to see the 40-piece gospel choir of Sounds of Blackness, she was impressed by their ability to shift from praise to pop; they knew they had to get involved. The duo signed the choir to their Perspective Records label and released the contemporary gospel fused with New Jack Swing debut single, “Optimistic” in 1991. Described as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ “favorite song we’ve ever done”, the song had major crossover appeal on soul and dance charts. A pioneering testament to the evolution of gospel, this uplifting song continues to remind us all to keep our head to the sky!
Boyz II Men – On Bended Knee
Aside from their work with Babyface, there is always a midas touch when Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis place a song upon Boyz II Men. Casting all pride to the side, “On Bended Knee” puts the Boyz in full beg mode on this 1994 ballad. Complete with all the elements we adore from the Philadelphia quartet; acknowledgment of transgressions by Shawn Stockman, apology by Nathan Morris, final spoken appeal by tenor Michael McCary, plus one of the greatest vocal finales ever by Wanya Morris – its no wonder that this shot to No.1 on the Billboard charts! “On Bended Knee” would make history as the first time a group replaced themselves at the number one spot since The Beatles, knocking “I’ll Make Love To You” to No.2. With voices like these, you can’t help but forgive whatever they did and fall back in love.
Chante Moore – Chante’s Got A Man
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis are masters at tailoring a song to its artist. No composition was more bespoke than Chante’s declaration of boo’d up-ness. Dedicated to Moore’s then-husband Kadeem Hardison, Moore had a lot to sing about and her passion shined through every note of this record. You couldn’t hate, only congratulate, the love in her life. Even though she and Dwayne Wayne didn’t work out in the end, the song broke the Billboard Top 10 and remains Chante’s most signature hit.
New Edition – I’m Still In Love With You
When R&B supergroup New Edition reunited on their 1996 album Home Again, the return of Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell, Ronnie DeVoe, Mike Bivins and Johnny Gill would have been incomplete without a contribution by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Recreating the magic they crafted on “Can You Stand The Rain”, the boys-now-men delivered another classic ballad. Led by Ralph and Ricky, each soloist shines among the harmony on this love song that satiated longtime N.E. fans while exposing new listeners with strong radio airplay.
Ginuwine, RL, Tyrese, and Case – The Best Man I Can Be
A star-studded film like The Best Man warrants a soundtrack with just as much star power. On 1999’s “The Best Man I Can Be”, Jam + Lewis found a way to translate the hearted message of the film through music in the soulful quartet of RL, Tyrese, Ginuwine, and Case. Co-produced by James “Big Jim” Wright, the song gets bigger and stronger as it progresses. This dream team of vocalists draw strength from each other for a magnum opus and unforgettable moment of brotherhood.