Lucas’ daughter Lisa confirmed her father’s death to Rolling Stone, adding that he died of complications from heart disease. “Reggie Lucas, my adored and beloved father, passed away early this morning at the age of 65. He made beautiful music, a beautiful family, a beautiful life and I will miss him every single day that I live on this earth,” Lisa Lucas tweeted earlier in the day.
As an 18-year-old guitarist in New York City, Lucas was recruited to join Miles Davis’ band in 1972. “It was real simple,” Lucas told The Fader of his audition. “Miles said,’You wanna be in my band, motherfucker?’ And I immediately said yeah.”
During his five-year tenure in Davis’ band, Lucas would appear on the live recordings that formed Davis’ jazz-funk trilogy Dark Magus, Pangaea and Agharta, as well as the classic 1972 album On the Corner and a handful of Get Up On It tracks, including “Rated X, “He Loved Him Madly” and “Mtume.” The latter track was named after percussionist James Mtume, who formed the group Mtume with Lucas after their tenure in Davis’ band.
Together, Lucas and Mtume wrote Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s “The Closer I Get to You” and Stephanie Mills’ 1980 hit “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” which won the 1981 Grammy Awards for Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Performance.
Following his 1978 solo LP Survival Themes and his Sunfire collaboration in 1982, Lucas entered the studio with Madonna in 1983 to record the up-and-coming singer’s self-titled debut album.
“When Warner Brothers called me about working with Madonna, I was the big score,” Lucas told Rolling Stone in 2013. “It seems ridiculous in retrospect, but I was an established professional and she was a nobody. I met with her at a tiny little apartment she had in the Lower East Side. I thought she was vivacious and sexy and interesting, and had a lot of energy.”
Lucas wrote and produced one of Madonna’s biggest hits, “Borderline,” and produced six of the album’s eight songs, including “Lucky Star” and “Burning Up.”
“‘Borderline’ has a stylistic similarity to ‘Never Knew Love Like This Before,’ Lucas told Rolling Stone for the 30th anniversary of Madonna. “This was the first record I ever used a drum machine instead of a drummer. And the bass on ‘Borderline’ is an ARP 2600 synthesizer, but the great Anthony Jackson – who did that intro on the O’Jays’ ‘For the Love of Money’ – is playing along on an electric bass guitar, and they’re playing so tight you can’t tell the difference.”
Over the course of his career, Lucas also worked with artists like the Four Tops, the Spinners and Lou Rawls.
Lucas is survived by his wife Leslie Lucas, his daughter Lisa Lucas, his son Julian Lucas, and his mother, Annie Wolinsky. “Two things you can do if you’d like to grieve with me for a moment,” Lisa Lucas added. “Listen to his songs. Look him up. Donate in his memory to the Cardio-Thoracic ICU at NY Presbyterian, because those people fought for him, cared for him, cried with us and are soldiers for their patients.”