The Vagabonds’ frontman Jimmy James dead at 84

The Vagabonds frontman Jimmy James has passed away at the age of 84 after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and a heart disease in 2021.



Jimmy James has died aged 84
Jimmy James has died aged 84

Jimmy James has died aged 84.

The Vagabonds frontman was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and a heart condition in 2021, and his family have now confirmed to the Jamaica Observer the soul legend passed away on Tuesday (14.05.24) at the Northwick Park Hospital in London.

Born Michael James in Saint Anne Parish, Jamaica, Jimmy arrived in the UK in 1964 as the frontman of the dance band, which was booked to perform at West Indian clubs across the country for six months on the strength of their album 'The Fabulous Vagabonds'.

Shortly after, the band - who were renowned for mixing different musical styles together, including calypso, ska, and R and B, - were invited to appear on the BBC programme ‘Tonight’, where they caught the eye of The Who's manager Pete Meaden.

After changing the band’s name to Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, their new manager secured the group slots to support bands like The Rolling Stones and Steampacket, and they landed a weekly residency at the Marquee Club in London.

In 1966, The Vagabonds released their album ‘The New Religion’, which did not prove to be a commercial success but in 1968, the band finally scored their first UK Top 40 chart with a rocksteady rendition of Neil Diamond’s ‘Red Red Wine’.

Two years later, the group split up, with M.C. Count Prince Miller and bassist Phil Chen going on to have successful acting and music careers, but Jimmy hired a new British band to perform with him as The Vagabonds.

The singer had two UK hits in 1976, with ‘I’ll Go Where Your Music Takes Me’, and ‘Now Is the Time’, which the former reaching number five in the charts, but he was still more celebrated for his live performances than his recorded material.

Jimmy went on to regularly headline soul and ‘60s music festivals before stepping back from live performances a few years ago due to his health issues.