*If ever there was a music industry veteran who was unsung, it’s Reggie Lucas. The musician, songwriter and record producer, who died of heart disease on this day two years ago at age 65, had his hands in some of the most indelible albums and hits of the 70s and 80s, including material from Stephanie Mills, Phyllis Hyman, Lou Rawls, The Spinners, Randy Crawford, The Weather Girls, Roberta Flack and Madonna’s self-titled 1983 debut.
Lucas started his career as an R&B and jazz guitarist, playing with Billy Paul in the early 1970s and then with Miles Davis from 1972 to 1976. While in Davis’ electric band, Lucas met percussionist James Mtume, who would later become his production partner. The two joined Roberta Flack’s band in 1976, and eventually formed their own production team. Soon, they were writing and producing hits for the likes of Mills, Hyman, Rawls, the Spinners and Flack.
In this EUR Video Throwback, we’re celebrating Lucas’ work strictly as a solo composer, which kicked off with the July 1979 release of Stephanie Mills’ album, “What ‘Cha Gonna Do with My Lovin.” The LP was produced by Lucas and Mtume, but the title track was written by Lucas and reached No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Stephanie Mills – What Cha Gonna Do with My Lovin’
In October 1979, Lucas penned the track “You Know How to Love Me” for Phyllis Hyman, from the album of the same name, also produced by both Lucas and Mtume. Despite being one of Hyman’s most successful singles, peaking at No. 12 on the Hot Soul Singles chart and No. 6 on the Disco chart, it did not enter the Hot 100 at all.
Phyllis Hyman – You Know How To Love Me & Interview + But I Love You
Mtume and Lucas also produced Mills’ 1980 album “Sweet Sensation,” which featured the Lucas-written single, “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” released on Aug. 31, 1980.
Stephanie Mills – Never Knew Love Like This Before
Lucas and Mtume co-wrote the 1978 Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway ballad, “The Closer I Get to You,” from Flack’s 1977 album “Blue Lights in the Basement.”
“The Closer I Get to You” was released six years after the 1972 album “Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway,” their first duets album that spawned the classic “Where is the Love,” written by Ralph MacDonald and William Salter. A second duets album was planned, but ended up being classified as Flack’s ninth solo album, titled “Roberta Flack featuring Donny Hathaway.” It was released in March 1980 with Hathaway as a “guest,” due to his death after recording only two songs: “You Are My Heaven” and the Reggie Lucas-penned “Back Together Again.”
Both tracks were recorded on Jan. 13, 1979. After having dinner with Flack that evening, Hathaway went back to his 15th floor suite at the Essex House in Manhattan and fell through a window to his death.
Roberta Flack – Back Together Again (feat. Donny Hathaway)
In 1983, one of the first albums featuring Lucas as a solo producer was Madonna’s 1983 self-titled debut. He produced every track except for two, “Holiday” (produced by John “Jellybean” Benitiez) and “Everybody” (produced by Mark Kamins). Those were two of the five singles released from the album. The remaining Lucas-produced three singles were “Lucky Star,” “Burning Up” and the only track on the album that was also written by Lucas, “Borderline.”
Madonna – Borderline (Official Music Video)
Lucas went on to produce a slew of albums throughout the 80s, including Randy Crawford’s “Abstract Emotions” (1986), Rebbie Jackson’s “Reaction” (1986), Bunny DeBarge’s “In Love” (1987), The Four Tops’ “Magic” (1985) and The Weather Girls’ self-titled album in 1988.