Terry Lewis was born in Omaha, Neb., on November 24, 1956. He met Jimmy Jam while in high school in Minneapolis, at a TRIO Upward Bound program on the University of Minnesota campus. They formed the band Flyte Tyme, which in 1981 became the Time—the group fronted by Prince protégé Morris Day. They soon launched their Flyte Time Productions company, and during the Time’s 1983 tour supporting Prince, they produced tracks for the S.O.S. Band during a break in Atlanta—and were fired by Prince when they were snowed in. But one of the tracks, “Just Be Good to Me,” became a hit, and in short order, they scored other R&B hits for artists including Gladys Knight, Patti Austin, Thelma Houston, and Klymaxx, before beginning their landmark collaborations with Janet Jackson in 1985.
They reunited with her in 1989 for her Rhythm Nation 1814 album, which topped Control in sales and yielded the No. 1 hits “Miss You Much” and “Escapade,” which they wrote or co-wrote; they also wrote or co-wrote most of her 1993 album Janet (which they produced and which included the No. 1 hit “That’s the Way Love Goes”), same with her 1997 album The Velvet Rope.
In the 2000s, the five-time Grammy-winning duo produced Jackson’s All for You album, winning a Grammy for the title track, which they co-wrote. They also won a Grammy in 2006 for Yolanda Adams’ “Be Blessed,” which they co-wrote and co-produced. “Disrespectful,” which they co-wrote and co-produced for Chaka Khan and was a duet with Mary J. Blige, also won a Grammy. Other recent hits written by Lewis and Jam include Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Pure Gold” and Ledisi’s “Higher Than This.”
One of the most successful writer-producers of the 1980s and on, Terry Lewis, in tandem with partner Jimmy Jam, has written 41 Top 10 hits in the U.S., and also with Jam, has more Billboard No. 1 hits than any other songwriting/production team in history. While their songs written and produced for and with Janet Jackson, including “What Have You Done for Me Lately?,” “Nasty,” “When I Think of You,” “Let’s Wait Awhile” and “Control”—all from her breakthrough 1986 album Control—necessarily stand out, they also wrote or co-wrote other monster hits including No. 1s for the likes of the Human League (“Human”), George Michael (“Monkey”), Karyn White (“Romantic”), Boyz II Men (“On Bended Knee” and “4 Seasons of Loneliness”) and Mariah Carey (“Thank God I Found You,” featuring Joe and 98 Degrees). Other artists who have recorded their songs include Mary J. Blige (“No More Drama”), Yolanda Adams (“Open My Heart”), Michael Jackson (“Scream,” with Janet Jackson), Sounds of Blackness (“Optimistic”), New Edition (“Can You Stand the Rain”) and S.O.S. Band (“Just Be Good to Me”).