Soul singer Kashif Saleem (nee Michael Jones) passed away on Sunday 25th September. He was just 56. Kashif was one of the most influential and successful singers and producers of the eighties. His innovative uses of synthesisers, computerised beats and basslines helped define the music of that era alongside the likes of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Paul Laurence and D Train.
Michael Jones joined the iconic Funk band B T Express in the mid-seventies at the age of fifteen and appeared on albums like ‘Energy To Burn’ and ‘Function At The Junction’. He remained for about four years before joining Stephanie Mills’ band as her keyboard player. He also worked with the likes of the Four Tops, Gloria Gaynor and the Tavares. During this period, he converted to Islam and adopted the name Kashif – meaning discoverer or inventor.
In 1983, he signed as solo artist to Arista and over the next six years recorded five albums for the label. His first self-titled set includes the R&B hit and 2 Step classic ‘I Just Gotta Have You (Lover Turn Me On)’ that has remained his most popular recording. The follow-up album ‘Send Me Your Love’ was his most successful set reaching number 4 on the R&B charts. His biggest hit, a duet with Meli’sa Morgan, was his version of the Skip Scarborough tune ‘Love Changes’ that reached number 2 on the R&B singles chart in 1987.
Alongside his solo recordings, Kashif produced and wrote for some of Soul’s biggest stars of the eighties including Evelyn King, Howard Johnson, Melba Moore, George Benson, Whitney Houston and on the Jazz side Kenny G to mention a few. Indeed, Arista’s founder and president Clive Davis was instrumental in getting Kashif to work with Whitney Houston on a couple of tracks on her self-titled debut including her first hit ‘You Give Good Love’.
His solo work became sporadic after his 1989 second self-titled album. In 1998, he recorded the under-rated ‘Who Loves You’ CD that was released on Expansion in the UK. It included several gems like ‘Bed You Down’/ ‘Lay You Down’, the instrumental ‘Brooklyn Breezes’ and the 2 Stepper ‘I Don’t Give A Damn’. Kashif remained active, however, as an author, educator, activist and was in the process of producing an extensive film documentary of R&B.
Kashif was inducted into the R&B hall of fame in 2004 as a living legend. His music remains iconic of 80’s Soul and our music has lost one of its genuine innovators. He will be hugely missed by his many fans.