Jamiroquai

  • British funk and jazz band formed in 1992 from London England. The face of the group is Jay Kay (born Jason Cheetham), who founded the group and is the lead vocalist and songwriter. The early other members were keyboardist and songwriter Toby Smith, Stuart Zender on bass guitar, Nick Van Gelder on drums and Wallis Buchanan on didgeridoo. There have been numerous members since the beginning, with Kay the only constant.
  • Kay began to write songs as a teenager. He took an interest in Native American and Indigenous Canadian people and their philosophies, and he incorporated what he learned into his writing. He went to clubs in the 80s and he was influenced by the funk and soul music that the club DJs played. In the early 90s, he wrote a song titled When You Gonna Learn. A producer took the song and changed the lyrics and sound to something the producer thought would sell. Kay disagreed, and he revised it back to his own version, with a jazz/funk groove sound. The experience led Kay to want to create his own band. He named his band Jamiroquai, a combination of the word “jam” and the name of the Native American tribe “Iroquois.” He made a demo tape and was signed in 1991 by a independent jazz label based in England. His first single released was song titled Natural Energy – only three copies of it were made.
  • He began to gather band members, and keyboardist Toby Smith emerged as a collaborator on writing. They performed at clubs in the UK, and When You Gonna Learn was released as a debut single in October 1992. It had some success at dance clubs in Europe, and it was included on the band’s debut album released in 1993 – Emergency on Planet Earth. The album rose to the top of the UK album chart, and the singles Too Young to Die and Blow Your Mind peaked at #10 and #12 respectively on the UK singles chart. The title track was the first to chart in the U.S., reaching #4 on the Hot Dance Club chart. The success of the album led to five British award nominations.
  • Their next album was 1994’s The Return of the Space Cowboy. The track Space Cowboy peaked at #17 in the UK and at #1 on the U.S. Hot Dance Club chart. Another single, Light Years, reached #6 on the Dance Club chart. Their breakthrough came with their third album. Traveling Without Moving was released in 1996. It was their first to chart in the U.S., reaching #24 on the Billboard album chart, and eventually it was certified platinum. Its biggest hit was Virtual Insanity – while it only reached #34 on the Dance chart, it reached #3 in the UK, and it won a Grammy award for Best Pop Performance for a Group with Vocal. The video for the song won two awards at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year.
  • In 1998, Jamiroquai contributed a single to the soundtrack of the film Godzilla – Deeper Underground became their first single to reach #1 on the UK charts. It was included in their next studio album, Synkronized, released in 1999. The album included two singles that reached #1 on the U.S. Dance Club Songs chart – Canned Heat and Supersonic. 
  • Entering the new millennium, Jamiroquai released two albums in the 00s, and two more in the 10s. All four were top ten albums in the UK, and five singles from these albums reached the top ten of the Dance Club songs chart in the U.S., including #1 songs Feels Just Like It Should and Runaway. If you want a modern take on the 70s funky jazz sound, give Jamiroquai a listen. Here’s the video to their award winning song, Virtual Insanity. You’ll probably think of Stevie Wonder when you hear it.

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