Mark James, ‘Suspicious Minds’ Songwriter, Dead at 83

Mark James, the songwriter known for penning such timeless tracks as “Suspicious Minds,” “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Always on My Mind”, has died at the age of 83.

James’ passing was first reported by the Houston Chronicle, who noted he died in his Nashville home on Saturday, June 8.

James’ career got started in the late ‘60s when he became a staff songwriter for Memphis record producer Chips Moman. While there, he wrote and recorded the song “Suspicious Minds,” however James’ rendition didn’t garner any commercial attention. A year later, Elvis Presley recorded his version of the tune and turned it into a No. 1 single, the final chart-topper of the King’s career.

In a 2012 conversation with the Wall Street Journal, James recalled how “Suspicious Minds” came together. “Late one night, fooling around on my Fender guitar and using my Hammond organ pedals for a bass line, I came up with a catchy melody,” he explained. “I was married to my first wife then but still had feelings for my childhood sweetheart, who was married back in Houston. My wife suspected I had those feelings, so it was a confusing time for me. I felt as though all three of us were all caught in this trap that we couldn’t walk out of.”

Listen to Elvis Presley’s Version of ‘Suspicious Minds’

Also in 1968, James wrote the song “Hooked on a Feeling.” It was recorded by one of his childhood friends, B.J. Thomas, and eventually peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969. Four years later the band Blue Swede would reach No. 1 with their version of “Hooked on a Feeling,” featuring the memorable “ooga chaka” chant.

Another of James’ beloved songs, “Always on My Mind,” was originally recorded by singer Brenda Lee in 1972 and became a minor country hit. Presley recorded a version of the song later that year and released it as the b-side to “Separate Ways.” Still the biggest commercial success for “Always on My Mind” came courtesy of Willie Nelson, who released his rendition in 1982. The single topped the country charts and crossed over to mainstream radio, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Watch Willie Nelson Perform ‘Always on My Mind’

Nelson’s rendition of “Always on My Mind” earned James a pair of Grammys, as the tune took home Best Country Song and Song of the Year in 1983.

James wrote more than 200 songs over his impressive career. His material has been recorded by a wide range of artists, including Blood, Sweat & Tears, Pet Shop Boys, Fine Young Cannibals, Jay-Z and Bill Withers. James was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014.

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Gallery Credit: Allison Rapp


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