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Producer/Songwriter Reggie Lucas, Dead at 65

A jazz guitar prodigy turned producer, Lucas variously produced, wrote for and played with the likes of Madonna, Miles Davis, Roberta Flack and many others.

New York (May 21, 2018)—Producer, songwriter and guitarist Reggie Lucas, who worked with Madonna, Miles Davis, Roberta Flack and many others, died of heart complications on Saturday, May 19, in New York City. He was 65.

Starting his professional career as a guitarist at age 14, Lucas quickly started gigging around New York City and Philadelphia, and soon hit the road with Billy Paul (“Me and Mrs. Jones”). That led to joining Miles Davis’ band when he was 19; Lucas spent the next four years touring the world and performing on numerous recordings with the jazz legend, until Davis went on hiatus in the later 1970s. In the years that followed, Lucas began collaborating with James Mtume and the pair wrote their first hit, “The Closer I Get To You,” for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway in 1977.

More co-written hits followed, including “Back Together Again” for Flack and Hathaway, and Stephanie Mills’ “Never Knew Love Like This Before.” The two songwriters also produced the latter single, which won a Grammy for Best R&B Song in 1981, and went on to produce numerous acts together, including Lou Rawls, The Spinners and Phyllis Hyman.

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Going their separate ways in the early 80s so that Mtume could become a solo artist, Lucas had his own short-lived act, Sunfire, but focused primarily on production; among his earliest solo production efforts was the first album by a fledgling dance artist, Madonna. Lucas produced six of the eight tracks on her self-titled debut; released in 1983, it went five-times Platinum in the U.S. and sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. Additionally, Lucas wrote two songs for the record, “Physical Attraction” and “Borderline,” the latter which became Madonna’s first Billboard Top 10 hit. Stylistically, however, the artist and producer had musical differences as to the direction her tracks should take, and Madonna ultimately brought in Jellybean Benitez to remix some of the songs.

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In ensuing years, Lucas worked with the likes of Rebbie Jackson, Randy Crawford, The Weather Girls, and The Four Tops, and in 1986 also founded Quantum Sound Studios in Jersey City NJ, housed inside a 19 century building that had formerly been a chandelier factory. Initially outfitted with a 48-input SSL 4000 console with Total Recall, the studio hosted acts like the Pet Shop Boys, Jodeci, Jeff Buckley and Sepultura over the years. Additionally, it proved to be a favorite mix room for producer/engineer Andy Wallace, who put together various Helmet and Rage Against the Machine tracks there in the late Eighties and early Nineties. Lucas eventually left Quantum in 1994, doing some recording for personal projects and teaching for a short time at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ.

Lucas is survived by survived by his mother, Annie Wolinsky; his wife, Leslie Lucas; his brother, Gregory; and son, Julian.