Mark James, a Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee best known for writing hits for Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson and a long list of other top artists, has died. The BBC reports that James died at his home in Nashville on June 8 at the age of 83.

Born Francis Rodney Zambon in Houston, Texas, on Nov. 29. 1940, James took up the violin in his youth before switching to guitar.

He launched his music career in Houston, playing the club scene before beginning to record his own songs. He released a string of minor local singles before interrupting his musical career to serve in Vietnam, and after he returned from the war, he relocated to Memphis at the urging of his childhood friend B.J. Thomas, signing a contract to write songs for producer Chips Moman, according to Music Row.

Moman produced Thomas' recordings of "The Eyes of a New York Woman," giving James his first hit in 1968. Thomas followed with two more James songs, "Hooked on a Feeling" and "It's Only Love," in 1969.

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James continued to record his own songs as he grew his songwriting career, including a recording of "Suspicious Minds" in 1968. Elvis Presley echoed his arrangement very closely for his 1969 cut on the song, which gave the iconic rock and country singer a No. 1 hit.

James would go on to score a long list of hits across genres over the '70s and '80s:

  • Mac Davis had a hit with "One Hell of a Woman" in 1974.
  • Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter scored a country hit with "Suspicious Minds" in 1976.
  • Elvis Presley scored his final No. 1 hit with "Moody Blue" in 1977.
  • Willie Nelson scored a multi-genre hit with "Always on My Mind" in 1982, winning two Grammy Awards and a CMA Award for Song of the Year.
  • Dwight Yoakam, Roger Whittaker, Eddy Arnold, Floyd Cramer, Charlie McCoy, Ronnie Milsap and many more also recorded James' songs.

James studied film scoring at UCLA and the American Film Institute and began creating music for films later in his career. His songs have appeared in films including Reservoir Dogs and Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as on soundtracks for Kramer Vs. Kramer, Practical Magic and more.

The Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York inducted James in 2014, and he was also a member the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame.

BMI named James one of the top songwriters of the 20th century in 2000 alongside Elton John, Paul McCartney and more. The performing rights organization also recognized James' stellar career with multiple Million-Air Awards in 2022.

Mark James' cause of death has not been released publicly. In a statement to the Houston Chronicle, his family said "his larger-than-life personality filled any room he was in, and his smile lit it up. He was a captivating storyteller who had the sweetest smile, the most infectious laugh and a twinkle in his eye that never dimmed."

Funeral plans for Mark James are not publicly available.

Sterling Whitaker is a Senior Writer and Senior Editor for Taste of Country. He focuses on celebrity real estate, as well as coverage of Yellowstone and related shows like 1883 and 1923. He's interviewed cast members including Cole Hauser, Kelly Reilly, Sam Elliott and Harrison Ford, and Whitaker is also known for his in-depth interviews with country legends including Don Henley, Rodney Crowell, Trace Adkins, Ronnie Milsap, Ricky Skaggs and more.

See the Most Played Country Song from the Year You Were Born

Who had the most played country song during the year you were born? This list is a fascinating time capsule of prevalent trends from every decade in American history. Scroll through to find your birth year and then click to listen. Some of these songs have been lost through the years, many of them for good reason!

Men named Hank dominated early before stars like Freddie Hart, Ronnie Milsap, Willie Nelson Clint Black took over to close the 1980s. More recently it's been Tim Mcgraw, Rodney Atkins, Kane Brown and Morgan Wallen. Did the most-played country song from the year you were born become a favorite of yours later? All info comes from Billboard's country airplay charts.

Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes

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