Mark James Dies at 83

( – Some musicians are better known for the songs they write rather than perform. Mark James was one of those people. He wrote many songs throughout his career that propelled stars like Brenda Lee, Willie Nelson, and Elvis Presley to the top of the charts. Sadly, he has passed away at the age of 83.

On Saturday, June 8, James died at his home in Nashville, Tennessee. His daughter, Sammie Zambon, confirmed his passing.

James was born in Houston, Texas, as Francis Rodney Zambone in November 1940. He changed his name after club owners said they “didn’t like the sound of Francis Zambone” when he performed during his early years. However, despite singing and releasing his own songs, his true fame came when others recorded them.

The musician’s career truly took off in 1968, when BJ Thomas, a country and pop star, and longtime friend of James, recorded his song “The Eyes of a New York Woman.” That version of the tune went to the Billboard Top 40. Then BJ Thomas sang another of James’ songs the same year, “Hooked on a Feeling,” which hit number five on the charts. It saw even further success in 1974 when Blue Swede recorded it and propelled it to number one on the charts.

That was just the beginning, though. In 1969, Elvis Presley released “Suspicious Minds,” a song that James recorded and released the year prior with little success. Presley’s version not only hit number one in the US, it went on to do so in 26 other countries. It was also the famous crooner’s last number-one single before his death in 1977.

James enjoyed continued success with his songs going on to be cut by famous singers and even appearing in movie soundtracks such as “Reservoir Dogs,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and “Lilo & Stitch.” He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and won two Grammy Awards for his works.

James is survived by his wife, Karen Zambon, two daughters, two grandchildren, and his brother, Rollin.

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