In what seems to be a never-ending season of loss, I heard yesterday that music producer and R&B artist Kashif (born Michael Jones), passed away on Sunday. While I write about music from different eras, though mostly R&B, music in the 80s was the music that I claim as my own. It was the music of my teenage years and my early twenties. One of the great producers and artists during that decade was Kashif.
A bit of research (Google, AllMusic.com and yes, Wikipedia) says that Kashif became a member of the funk-disco group B.T. Express at the age of fifteen. However, the first album I can find him credited on was the group’s Energy To Burn from 1976, which would make him seventeen. Either way, his gift was evident at a young age, as he played keyboards for the band. B.T. Express is best known for the #1 hits Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied) and “Express”, but I cannot determine whether he played on those songs. He did, however play on three albums with the group, the last of which was Shout! (Shout It Out) from 1978. Here’s the title song from that album.
After that album, he began to become fascinated with synthesizers and MIDI technology. Three years later in 1981, his first notable production credit was with singer Evelyn “Champagne” King with the song “I’m In Love.” The song was a smash R&B hit, hitting number one and being played throughout the summer. It revitalized King’s career, and made Kashif a producer to watch. Janet Jackson would come along to basically take the structure of the track to make her song “R&B Junkie,” but I like the original a thousand times better.
Two years later, as his production schedule picked up, adding Melba Moore, George Benson and Kenny G among others, Kashif became an artist himself. His debut self-titled album was released in 1983 and contained three top thirty R&B hits, as well as a Grammy-nominated instrumental, “The Mood.” While I loved all the songs that were released from his debut, my favorite was “Help Yourself To My Love,” which he also cut with Kenny G on his G-Force album.
One final example of Kashif’s production work may be his biggest success. There is a story out on the internet that Clive Davis asked Kashif to watch Whitney Houston perform at a club in New York, and Kashif didn’t like her act at all. Davis kept pushing Kashif to work with Houston, but he resisted. Later on, he was sent a demo for a song from one of his staff writers called “You Give Good Love.” Once Kashif heard the demo, he became convinced that it was the song that would give Whitney a hit record. He then made Davis aware that he would work with Houston and that he had the song that would be a hit. Kashif produced the single “You Give Good Love” which became a big hit for Houston, and started her on her multi-platinum solo career. From her debut album (and technically the third single (third!) released), here is “You Give Good Love.”
After his career began to slow down in the late 1980s, Kashif continued innovating. He became a professor, teaching about contemporary music production at UCLA and also wrote a book about the industry as well. He also worked with organizations linked to foster care, as he himself was a child in foster care growing up.
In a year that has seen people leaving the earthly plane from all kinds of professions and with all kinds of fame, this is another one who leaves us way too soon. He was something of a renaissance man of music, notably in R&B, but his reach touched a lot of different areas. RIP Kashif Saleem.
I realize today’s “Morning Groove” was a bit scattered, but I wanted to give a tribute to one of the artists/producers who made 80s R&B music so much fun to listen to. As always, thanks for reading and listening.