Popular for his R&B percussion, saxophone and singing performances in the 1970s, Jimmy Castor passed away on January 16th. Born on January 23, 1940, James Walter Castor ultimately died of cardiac failure in a hospital in Nevada at the age of 71. The talented songwriter, singer and instrumentalist had been hospitalized since November before undergoing quadruple bypass heart surgery on top of cancer. The type of cancer Castor suffered as well as type of treatment is being kept private. His beloved wife, four children and eight grandchildren survive him.
Castor was the bandleader of the Jimmy Castor Bunch, a group that sang with funk and comedy. Known as “The Everything Man” for his broad range of musical talents, Castor sang hip-hop, soul and rhythm, blues and R&B. In 1988, New York Times music critic Robert Palmer wrote that Jimmy Castor was “something of a broad humorist” and that his band “cooked mightily, projecting verve and style with its crisply interlocking rhythms”.
Castor indubitably left a lasting impression on the world of music. Producer Nile Rodgers tweeted, “I can’t stop crying. How do I explain how much his brilliant upbeat music touched my soul? Jimmy Castor RIP… What really breaks my heart is he wanted to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame so badly. I’m not sure if he was ever even nominated.” Jerry Greenberg credited Castor for his indelible musical influence, saying that he was “a great talent who will be missed”.
With his group from the 1950s, Jimmy and the Juniors, Castor wrote and recorded “I Promise to Remember” in 1956. In 1957, Castor replaced Frankie Lymon in The Teenagers. In 1966 he switched to playing the saxophone and in 1966 came out with his Smash records hit “Hey Leroy, Your Mama’s Callin’ You”. In 1972, the Jimmy Castor Bunch’s “It’s Just Begun” album’s “Troglodyte (Cave Man)” became a number 6 Billboard 100 hit. The hit song remained on the charts for fourteen weeks and sold a million copies by June 30th of that year. The track hit “It’s Just Begun” was used in 1983 as a dance sequence in the movie “Flashdance” and was later sung by performers such as the Spice Girls, Marky Mark (Mark Wahlberg) and 2 Live Crew.
Kanye West and Mos Def have sampled Castor’s music, a process for which Castor became famous. In sampling, a snippet of music from one song is featured in another song. Castor sued the Beastie Boys for sampling his “The Return of Leroy (Part One)” in their “Hold It! Hit It!” in 1986. Castor allegedly sued the Beastie Boys to set a principle, not for the money. Castor ultimately made more money from sampling that other performers did using his music than from sales of his own records. ‘Hip-hop has been fairly good to me… In the beginning it wasn’t, when people like the Beastie Boys just raped my music. C’mon man, as L.L. Cool J said to me one day, ‘That’s like taking someone’s vintage car out of the driveway and just driving it away!’ When they pay, I love it” (Village Voice, 2004). In 1975 Castor debuted his hit “The Bertha butt Boogie” and subsequently featured hits such as “Bom Bom”, “Potential” and “King Kong”.
From 1976 through 1988, Castor performed as a solo artist and had his own record label, Long Distance. In 1988 his revival of “Love Makes a Woman” with Joyce Sims was his final smash hit. Finally, in the 1990s, Castor performed with a reformed The Teenagers.