Michael ‘Jimmy’ James, the legendary frontman of soul outfit The Vagabonds, has died at the age of 84.

James’ death was confirmed by his family in a statement to the Jamaica Observer. Per his family, James died on Tuesday (May 14) at the Northwick Park Hospital in London after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and a heart condition in 2021.

The Jamaican-born singer founded The Vagabonds in 1960 before the group relocated to the UK in 1964. While the band’s sound was firmly rooted in soul music, they also dabbled in ska, R&B and big band standards throughout the course of their career and performed alongside the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Sonny & Cher and Rod Stewart among others.

Some of Jimmy James and The Vagabonds’ biggest hits came in the form of 1968’s ‘Come to Me Softly’ (which James wrote), 1976’s ‘I Am Somebody’, and a soulful cover of Neil Diamond’s ‘Red Red Wine’.

Jimmy James performs live in 1966. Credit: Ivan Keeman/Redferns

Together, Jimmy James and The Vagabonds recorded and released six studio albums: 1966’s ‘The New Religion’, 1968’s ‘This Is Jimmy James and the Vagabonds’ and ‘Open Up Your Soul’, 1975’s ‘You Don’t Stand a Chance If You Can’t Dance’, 1976’s ‘Now’ and 1977’s ‘Life’.

While The Vagabonds’ original line-up – which included Phil Chen who would later go on to perform with Rod Stewart – disbanded in 1970, James owned the name to the band and put together an all-new backing band for their last three albums.

Jimmy James continued to perform from time to time until 2021, when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and retired from music.

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