Kashif, who started his career as a teenager in B.T. Express and went on to a successful career as a recording artist and a producer, died at his home in Playa del Ray, CA on Sunday at the age of 59. No cause of death has been announced.
Born Michael Jones in Harlem, he had a horrific early life in a foster home where he was regularly abused. At the age of 6, he moved to a more stable environment and enrolled in a school where his interest in music was fostered.
By the age of 12, he played the trumpet, flute, saxophone, tuba and piano and began playing in clubs like the Copacabana and Lloyd Price’s Turntable. Three years later, in 1974, he was asked to become a keyboard player and vocalist in the band B.T. Express, playing on their albums Energy to Burn (1976), Function at the Junction (1977) and Shout! (Shout It Out) (1978) along with their hits Can’t Stop Groovin’ Now, Wanna Do It Some More (1976 / #52 Pop / #6 R&B / #2 Dance) and Shout It Out (1978 / #12 R&B).
In 1978, Jones, now converted to Islam and using the name Kashif Saleem, left B.T. Express to become the keyboard player for Stephanie Mills.
After five years of supporting other artists, Kashif was signed to Arista Records as a solo artist, releasing five albums for the label and having hits with I Just Gotta Have You (Lover Turn Me On) (1983 / #5 R&B), Baby Don’t Break Your Baby’s Heart (1984 / #6 R&B), Love the One I’m With (A Lot of Love) with Melba Moore (1986 / #5 R&B), Love Changes with Meli’sa Morgan (1987 / #2 R&B) and Personality (1989 / #6 R&B).
At the same time, Kashif started working extensively as a producer on such hits as I’m in Love for Evelyn “Champagne” King (which he also wrote), So Fine for Howard Johnson, You Give Good Love for Whitney Houston, Love Changes for Meli’sa Morgan and Inside Love (So Personal) by George Benson.
In the mid-90’s, Kashif added two more vocations to his resume, professor and writer. He taught Contemporary Record Production for the UCLA Extension program and published the book Everything You’d Better Know About The Record Industry. In addition, at the time of his death, he was working on a ten-part documentary The History of R&B Music and Its Influence on World Culture.