Songwriter Mark James Who Wrote Massive Hits, Dies At 83

( — Award-winning songwriter Mark James has died at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 83.

While he will be missed by family and friends, people all over the world will still enjoy his music for generations to come. His best-known song, “Always on My Mind,” was a collaborative effort with Johnny Christopher and Wayne Carson in 1971. Since it was first recorded by Brenda Lee, different versions of it have been recorded by over 300 musical acts. Elvis Presley’s version in 1973 first brought it international fame, while Willie Nelson and The Pet Shop Boys both caused a resurgence in popularity for the hit with their covers in the 1980s.

Mark James was born Francis Zambon on November 29, 1940, in Houston, Texas. As a lifelong music lover, he originally intended to write music for himself. His first single, “Jive Note,” was released in 1959, and he formed his own band in 1963 called the Mark James Trio. His musical career was interrupted when he was drafted and sent to fight in the Vietnam War. Upon his return, he dove right back into music, writing and producing his own music, including the earliest recordings of hits like “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Suspicious Minds.”

Shifting away from performing, James wrote many more popular songs, with several of them only increasing in popularity each time a notable musician or up-and-coming band recorded covers of them. His songs resonate every time another film features them. Blue Swede’s 1974 version of “Hooked on a Feeling” helped catapult the film soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy to the top of the Billboard 200 chart in August 2014. In later years, James became fascinated with film scores and studied the discipline at UCLA and the American Film Institute. He provided the score for the short 2001 film “Trade Day,” credited under his birth name.

James is survived by his wife of 53 years, Karen Zambon, as well as two daughters, grandchildren, and extended family. His family has released a public statement praising him for his “zest for life.” The statement also discussed his timeless lyrics and melodies, characterizing the music he created as a soundtrack for lovers across many generations. In 2021, James remarked that he was thankful that his music is still being discovered and embraced by new fans all over the world.

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