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Grammy-Winning ‘Always on My Mind’ Songwriter Was 83

Grammy-Winning ‘Always on My Mind’ Songwriter Was 83

Grammy-Winning ‘Always on My Mind’ Songwriter Was 83

Mark James, the Grammy-winning Songwriters Hall of Fame member behind hits like “Hooked on A Feeling, “Suspicious Minds” and “Always on My Mind,” has died. He was 83.

James died on June 8 in his Nashville home. The news was first reported by the Houston Chronicle.

“Mark’s legacy and zest for life will live on in the hearts of those who loved him, and through his timeless lyrics and melodies that have been the soundtrack of lovers for generations,” his family said via statement.

James won both of his two Grammys in 1963 for “Always on My Mind,” which he co-wrote with Wayne Carson and Johnny Christopher. The Willie Nelson hit took home trophies for country song of the year and song of the year. James and his co-writers initially wrote the tune for Elvis Presley, who released the track without much fanfare in 1972. Nelson’s version a decade later popularized the song, and a cover by the Pet Shop Boys also achieved international success. “Always on My Mind” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.

James was a frequent songwriter for Presley, writing “Suspicious Minds” for the beloved King of Rock and Roll. “That song was a sledgehammer,” he told the Houston Chronicle in 2014. In 1969, the track became Elvis’ last No. 1 song before his death in 1977.

James may be most well-known for his song “Hooked on A Feeling” — originally written for B.J. Thomas in 1969 and since covered by numerous artists, including Blue Swede and the Hives. The song, recognizable across generations, also appears in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

James was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014, a decade and a half after BMI named him one of its Songwriters of the Century in 2000. He was also inducted into the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame, the New York Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

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James was born Francis Zambon in Houston, Texas, in 1940. His father was an Italian contractor and his mother was a teacher. He frequented the movies as a child, where he learned that “a great story can be told again and again.” He began his career as a performer, changing his name early on because Houston club owners didn’t like the sound of Francis Zambon.

He is survived by his wife, Karen Zambon, his daughters Sammie and Dana Zambon, grandchildren and extended family.

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