Prolific Songwriter Mark James Dead at 83

( – A legendary songwriter who wrote a couple of Elvis Presley’s hits has just died, but his musical legacy lives on after a career spanning decades.

Mark James died on Saturday, June 8th, at the age of 83 while at his residence in Nashville, Tennessee. Although not a household name in the same way as the singers he wrote for, James penned some of America’s most iconic hits from the shadows.

Born on Nov. 29th, 1940, as Francis Rodney Zambon in Houston, Texas, to an Italian American family, he was attracted to music from a young age and his career spanned over 50 years. He worked with and composed songs for artists such as Elvis Presley, Brenda Lee, Bill Withers, B.J. Thomas, Willie Nelson, and Jay Z.

Perhaps the most iconic song written by James is the 1968 classic “Suspicious Minds,” which was sung by Presley and became one of his most well-known hits, remaining a popular song to this day. That same year, he composed “Hooked On A Feeling,” which was sung by B.J. Thomas, and became a number-one hit in the U.S. after the Swedish band Blue Swede made a pop version of the song in 1974. Another hit he co-wrote was the 1972 song “Always On My Mind,” sung by Brenda Lee, for which he won two Grammys.

Those three songs were later listed among the 100 Greatest Songs of the 20th Century. James also started his own band, The Mark James Trio. Later in his career, he became interested in film scoring.

In 2000, Broadcast Music (BMI) named James as one of their “Songwriters of the Century,” an honor shared with Elton John and Paul McCartney. His family described him as a “larger-than-life personality,” which they said “filled any room he was in.” In their statement, they also called him “a captivating storyteller.”

The Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted James in 2014. He’s also been inducted into the New York Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

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