Their names are synonymous with success. In fact, an amazing catalog of hit records has already made them the most successful production duo in contemporary music history. And, longtime friends Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis have created a body of work that has assured them a premier place in the pop culture of the '80s, '90s, and beyond.
The statistics are mind-boggling: millions of sales on over 100 albums that have exceeded gold, platinum, and multi-platinum status, an incredible 15 No.1 pop hits and 25 No.1 R&B chart toppers, multiple Grammy Awards, and numerous other accolades and honors.
The musical diversity and depth of the pair's work is equally astonishing. Not content with breaking records with projects by superstar acts such as Janet Jackson, Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, the Spice Girls, Michael Jackson, TLC, Mary J. Blige, Patti LaBelle, and others, Jam & Lewis started the new millennium with multimillion dollar salesand two number one hitsfor Japan's best-selling female artist, Hikaru Utada.
Jam & Lewis have also been busy making inroads in television. "We're both big sports fans so we were very happy to create Excellence, the soundtrack for all broadcasts of the NBA on TNT," Jimmy said. The duo, along with Run DMC, also produced a remake of Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground for the TBS network's basketball broadcasts. And certainly not least, Jimmy & Terry composed and produced Welcome To The World, the theme of the opening ceremonies of the 1996 summer Olympic Games.
Branching out into work on the silver screen, the pair was responsible for Flyte Tyme Records's million-selling soundtrack for the 1998 hit movie, How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Jam & Lewis also contributed I Will Get There by Boyz II Men to the 1998 platinum-selling soundtrack of The Prince Of Egypt. Againa Janet Jackson recording from the soundtrack of John Singleton's Poetic Justice (in which she starred)received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations and topped the charts. Over the years, Jam & Lewis's music has been heard on numerous soundtracks, including the 1999 box office smash The Best Man, for which they produced the title track, featuring Ginuwine, Tyrese, Case, and R.L. (of Next). "The possibilities for different musical collaborations that exist with soundtrack work really excite us. Just bringing together the four singers for The Best Man, for instance, was amazing…," Jimmy said.
The team's ongoing commitment to expanding their musical horizons continued in 2000 with eight new, original songs for the soundtrack of All That Glitters, Mariah Carey's movie debut. Jam & Lewis then scored a major hit with Doesn't Really Matter from the film The Nutty Professor II. (Doesn't Really Matter is Jam & Lewis's 38th top 10 pop hit.)
As a testament to the timeless quality of Jimmy & Terry's work, several major rap and hip hop artists continue to sample from the Flyte Tyme catalogamong them, LL Cool J, Jay Z, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Jermaine Dupri, Silkk The Shocker, The Lox, Foxy Brown, and popular British producer/artist Fatboy Slim. "In the wake of an era of new producers, it's particularly gratifying for us that our music is being used so much either in samples or remakes," said Jimmy.
Although neither Jimmy nor Terry could pinpoint one reason for their overwhelming success, Terry thinks a strong knowledge of most genres of music has helped. "When we first started out, we had to play everything just to get work. To market yourself as a musician and get paid, you had to have flexibility. You can't do the same thing with everyone. I think, if anything, that has been the mainstay of our longevity, the fact we can adjust as music has evolved and changed…"
As members of the pioneering funk-n-soul band, The Time, Jimmy & Terry played leading roles in the group's first two gold albums, The Time and What Time Is It. Even more noteworthy is how the pair left the band: Working with The S.O.S. Band during a two-day break in their tour with Prince, Jimmy & Terry were snowed-in in Atlanta. When they finally did catch up with Prince, he dismissed the pair from the band. But that didn't matter. The song they produced for The S.O.S. Band, Just Be Good To Me, became Jimmy & Terry's first Top Five R&B hit. "The S.O.S. Band was the coin that flipped for us. After that, people started asking, 'Who are these guys?' Then, we had our first No.1 R&B hit with Cheryl Lynn and Encore and our names started popping up on different records…," Terry said.
In 1985, the demand for Jimmy & Terry's services started to grow. That's when the pair made two strategic decisions: opening their own Flyte Tyme studio and starting their own publishing. "The studio is a success story all of its own," said Jimmy. "And, we're very happy that our publishing company has been competitive with the other major publishers in the industry."
Before 1986, Jam & Lewis had enjoyed significant success. But it wasn't until they teamed with Janet Jackson that their global superproducer status was cemented. As producers of Janet's four mega-platinum albums (Control, Rhythm Nation 1814, janet, and The Velvet Rope), Jam & Lewis have been responsible for creating groundbreaking work with one of the world's all-time best-selling female artists. "I think we helped bring an aggressive style to female vocalists," Jimmy said. Terry added, "I always get inspired by Janet. She just has so much talent and her flexibility and creativity are always great…"
In 1991, Jam & Lewis took the next step in their journey as industry pioneers with the launch of the Perspective label. The pair kicked off the label with critically acclaimed gold albums by gospel-soul aggregation The Sounds of Blackness and self-contained band Mint Condition. Other acts and projects benefited from the team's experience, wisdom, and direction, including Lo-Key who scored a No.1 hit with I Got A Thing For You, Solo (who scored a gold album with their debut set), the platinum soundtrack to the film Mo' Money, and Ann Nesby.
Even as they work hard to develop their own companies, Jimmy & Terry have kept providing a vast array of artists with the kind of production that creates hit records. The list of those who have benefited from their golden touch includes Elton John, Barry White, Yolanda Adams, Rod Stewart, Lionel Richie, Vanessa Williams, New Edition, Luther Vandross, Robert Palmer, Jon Secada, and Jordan Knight. And the touch has yet to fade. In 1997, the Jam & Lewis-produced 4 Seasons Of Loneliness (a No.1 pop hit by Boyz II Men) achieved platinum status. In 1998, Janet Jackson's Together Again (a No.1 pop hit) and I Get Lonely (a No.1 R&B hit) were certified as gold singles.
Jimmy & Terry ended a solid decade of hits in 1999 with the gold single I Will Get There by Boyz II Men, a Top 5 platinum single Give It To You by Jordan Knight, and a breakthrough pop and R&B smash with Chanté Moore's Chanté's Got A Man. The team also contributed to the 1999 platinum and multi-platinum Grammy-winning albums by TLC, Mary J. Blige, and Yolanda Adams. Mariah Carey's multi-platinum Rainbow included Thank God I Found You, Jam and Lewis's first No.1 pop and R&B hit of the new millennium.
In an unprecedented collaboration, the two worked on three songs for fellow Grammy-winner Babyface's new 2000 album. Other 2000 projects included producing six Diane Warren-penned songs for Patti LaBelle's latest album; work on releases for Johnny Gill, Jordan Knight, Case, and The Time; and producing songs for U.K. supergroup the Spice Girls and a solo project for Spice Girl Mel B.
Winners of several awards, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis have already created an enduring legacy for themselves. And yet, like all true pioneers, they won't stand still but keep stepping forward, challenging themselves musically, creatively, and personally. "The main thing for us is to be good human beings. We're blessed. We have great friends and we get mutual respect from the people we work with," said Terry. "I don't know what our ultimate calling is but I look at someone like Quincy Jones who is a great mentor for me. Whatever ball is thrown at him, he catches it. He's always open to new ideas and that's where true creativity lives. I want to continue to be open to new possibilities. There is no Jam & Lewis 'sound' because we never do the same thing twice..."
Role models as entrepreneurs, continually reinventing themselves as visionary producers and songwriters, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (both loving fathers) remain committed to their incredible musical partnership. With all kinds of exciting ventures on the horizon, the irrepressible pair is poised for more cutting-edge innovation without creative limits or boundaries.