Mark James, GRAMMY-Winning Songwriter for Elvis Presley, Dead at 83

Mark James, prolific songwriter for artists like B.J. Thomas and Elvis Presley, died on June 8 at age 83 in Nashville. He wrote Presley’s famous hit “Suspicious Minds,” as well as co-wrote “Always On My Mind.” His family made a statement, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle.

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“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,” the statement read. “He was a captivating storyteller who had the sweetest smile, the most infectious laugh and a twinkle in his eye that never dimmed.”

[RELATED: Behind the Meaning of “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley]

Songwriter Mark James Has Died, Had Hits with Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson

James was born Francis Rodney Zambon in Houston, Texas. He became a staff songwriter for Chips Moman’s production company in the late 1960s, and wrote songs that went on to be hits for B.J. Thomas and Elvis Presley. A selection of these included Thomas’ “The Eyes of a New York Woman,” “Hooked On A Feeling,” and “It’s Only Love.” James also wrote and recorded his own version of “Suspicious Minds” before Presley recorded his in 1969.

According to James, in an interview with Wall Street Journal in 2012, per a report from Music News, “In the years that followed, whenever I saw Elvis, he’d cross the room just to say hello to me – no matter who was with him. After he died, I heard he’d always asked the guys in the studio, ‘Did Mark send me any more songs?’ Golly, I wish I had known that.”

In the early 1970s, James’ song “Sunday Sunrise” was recorded by Brenda Lee and subsequently covered by Anne Murray. Meanwhile, Presley continued to record James’ songs, such as “Raised On Rock,” “It’s Only Love,” and “Moody Blue.” James then co-wrote “Always On My Mind” with Johnny Christopher and Wayne Carson, which Presley released in 1972.

Willie Nelson’s cover of “Always On My Mind” became a huge hit, winning Mark James two GRAMMY Awards for Song of the Year and Best Country Song. Additionally, the song was also covered by Pet Shop Boys, becoming a smash hit in the U.K.

Mark James was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015, where his legacy lives on through the hit songs he penned over his career.

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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