Songwriter Mark James passes away at 83

Mark James, the prolific two-time Grammy-winning songwriter and esteemed member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, best known for timeless hits like “Hooked on a Feeling,” “Suspicious Minds,” and “Always On My Mind,” has passed away at the age of 83. He died on June 8 at his home in Nashville, with the news first reported by his hometown newspaper, the Houston Chronicle.

James’ family shared their sentiments in a heartfelt statement: “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.”

Mark James earned his two Grammy awards in 1983 for “Always On My Mind,” which he co-wrote with Wayne Carson and Johnny Christopher. This song achieved immense popularity when recorded by Willie Nelson, who propelled it to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Country Songs chart. Although Elvis Presley recorded the song in 1972 without much success, it later gained international fame through a cover by the Pet Shop Boys, reaching No. 1 in the U.K. and No. 4 in the U.S. “Always On My Mind” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.

Another notable collaboration between James and Presley was the hit “Suspicious Minds,” one of Presley’s signature songs. The duo also produced memorable tracks like “Moody Blue,” the title track of Presley’s final album, “It’s Only Love,” and “Raised on Rock.”

Born Francis Zambon in Houston, Texas, in 1940, James grew up with an Italian father who was a contractor and a mother who was a teacher. He began his music career as a performer, changing his name early on because Houston club owners preferred the sound of “Mark James” over his original name. This change proved fruitful as he went on to achieve remarkable success in the music industry.

James was inducted into multiple prestigious halls of fame, including the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame, New York Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2000, BMI honored him as one of its Songwriters of the Century.

James is survived by his wife, Karen Zambon; his daughters, Sammie and Dana Zambon; and his grandchildren and extended family. His contributions to the music world have left an indelible mark, ensuring that his songs will continue to resonate with audiences for generations to come.