Prince kicked them out of the Time in 1983 because they missed a gig while doing their side hustle as record producers.
Thirty-nine years later, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis will join Prince in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as one of the most successful songwriting/producing teams of all time. The force behind 16 No. 1 pop hits and 26 R&B chart-toppers, the Minneapolis-launched duo were named in the "musical excellence" category by Hall of Fame officials on Wednesday morning.
"I was shocked, quite honestly," Jam said. "As far as career recognition, it's as big as it gets to me. It's huge to me. People that are members of that club, so many of them are people I admire and love."
Also voted into the Hall of Fame this year are artists who, like Jam and Lewis, made their marks in the 1980s — Pat Benatar, Eurythmics, Duran Duran and Lionel Richie — along with '70s singer-songwriter Carly Simon, who was on the ballot for the first time; country legend Dolly Parton, who didn't even want to be considered for induction; and rap superstar Eminem, who was elected in his first year of eligibility (25 years after releasing a first record).
Jam and Lewis are best known for creating hits for Janet Jackson, who was inducted into the Rock Hall in 2019; Boyz II Men; and Mariah Carey, among others. They pulled off the rare feat of working on No. 1 songs in three different decades — the '80s, '90s and 2000s.
Jam, 62, and Lewis, 65, have won five Grammys, including for Producer of the Year in 1987. They were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017.
Jam found out about the new honor when John Sykes, chairman of the Hall of Fame, called him the other day. They had shared a table at last year's induction, when Clarence Avant, one of Jam and Lewis' mentors, was welcomed into the hall.
"I thought John was calling to ask me to be on the nominating committee," Jam said. "He said, "No, you're in.' I was shocked. I still am. It's very surreal."
After attending last year's induction, Jam had written down "Rock & Roll Hall of Fame" on his wish list, changing his mind from "Why us?" to "Why not us?"
The Hall of Fame has recognized producers, including Phil Spector and George Martin, and songwriters, including the teams of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and Gerry Goffin and Carole King. The only previous inductees as songwriters and producers are Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the force behind 1970s Philadelphia soul music.
A handshake deal
While in junior high school, bassist Lewis met keyboardist James (Jimmy Jam) Harris III, the son of now 95-year-old Twin Cities piano man Cornbread Harris, at a summer school program at the University of Minnesota. They later played in bands, including Flyte Tyme, which evolved into the Time, a group Prince created around singer Morris Day.
With its self-titled 1981 debut written and produced by Prince, the Time found R&B success with "Get It Up" and "Cool." After its second LP was released a year later, the Time opened for Prince on tour. Jam and Lewis met some influential music executives, including Avant, aka the "Black Godfather," and a producing opportunity beckoned.
On a day off from the Prince tour, they were in Atlanta working with the S.O.S. Band but, because of bad weather, weren't able to make it to the Time gig the next night. Prince fired them, but the silver lining was that S.O.S. Band's "Just Be Good to Me" became a big R&B hit.
So, Jam and Lewis reimagined themselves as fulltime songwriters and producers, with a handshake deal to split credits 50/50 no matter who contributed what.
Working in a nondescript brick building on Nicollet Avenue in south Minneapolis they dubbed Flyte Tyme Studios, Jam and Lewis recorded such hits as Jackson's "Control" and Human League's "Human." They relocated their studios to Edina, enjoying success with such Twin Cities acts as Sounds of Blackness, Alexander O'Neal and Mint Condition. In 2004, Jam and Lewis moved to Los Angeles.
Jam and Lewis now will join other Minnesotans in the Rock Hall of Fame — Prince, Bob Dylan and '50s rocker Eddie Cochran, who was born in Albert Lea.
Harry Belafonte, Sylvia Robinson also chosen
Also named to the Hall of Fame this year — as opposed to voted in — were hard-rockers Judas Priest for "musical excellence" (they were on the ballot but not voted in); calypso king Harry Belafonte and blues singer Elizabeth Cotten as "early influences," and, as non-performers, lawyer Allen Grubman, who has represented numerous superstars from Bruce Springsteen to Andrew Lloyd Webber; producer/executive/entrepreneur Jimmy Iovine; and the late pioneering hip-hop record executive Sylvia Robinson, who also sang the 1956 hit "Love Is Strange" in Mickey & Sylvia.
The 37th annual induction ceremonies will be held Nov. 5 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland, where the 2021 inductions took place.
Jon Bream 612-673-1719