In soulful remembrance of Patrick Adams (March 17, 1950-June 22, 2022), famed producer/songwriter/arranger/musician, record label owner and executive, whose career spanned five decades during which he earned 32 gold and platinum records, renowned music historian and essayist Larry Flick offers his personal reflections. Rest peacefully, Patrick, a true musical pioneer.
Music was the focal point of Patrick Adams’ life. Not only was it his life’s work, it gave him inexplicable personal joy. Everything around him musicality… even a simple conversation. He once told me that he heard an ongoing soundtrack of melody and rhythm playing in his mind 24 hours a day.
“Even my dreams have a beat,” he said with laugh during one of the conversations we had back in the day for Billboard magazine. “I can’t totally put it into words, but music pumps huge waves of energy through my mind and body. I never feel more alive than when I hear a great track blasting from the speakers.”
The legendary artist and songwriter died on June 22nd at the age of 72 after a long illness. The exact details of his passing have not been released, though his daughter, Joi Sanchez shared on Facebook that he died peacefully in his sleep. “Forever grateful for what I learned from him. Who I am is because of who he was,” she wrote.
Born Patrick Peter Owen Adams on March 17, 1950, in New York, Adams started his musical journey in Harlem as a member of the Sparks. He eventually became the manager of funk/soul band Black Ivory after they auditioned for him over the phone. He went on to produce their now-classic 1971 debut “Don’t Turn Around.” It was while working with Black Ivory that Adams brought a young Leroy Burgess to the line-up. “From the very start, I knew that [Leroy] was destined for greatness,” Adams once told me. “He brought something special to the band that took their sound to the next level.”
It was his keen ear and his innate ability to discover talent that inspired Adams to launch is own production company, PAPMUS (Patrick Adams Productions Music) in 1974. Under that banner, he was at the helm of iconic recordings by Brazilian artist Astrud Gilberto and jazz singer Debbie Taylor. The beat of disco soon became too enticing to resist, and he earned commercial success by working the band Musique. With that group, which featured vocal legend Jocelyn Brown, he scored a smash in 1978 with “In the Bush.”
“It’s crazy what we got away with back then,” he told me. “The rules were less strict. Disco was a place of freedom. There was no judgement. You just did your thing. It was beautiful.” That feeling of freedom lead to a spree of dance floor hits that included Sister Sledge’s 1974 debut, “Circle of Love,” as well as the massive singles “I’m Caught Up (In A One Night Love Affair)” by Inner Life (featuring vocals by Brown) and “Touch Me (All Night Long)” by Fonda Rae.
Adams affinity for rich beats and infectious melodies later expanded to include a foray into R&B and hip-hop that was marked by collaborations with Keith Sweat, Salt-N-Pepa, and Teddy Riley, among others.
With such a brilliantly varied resume of recordings, the unifying thread of Patrick Adams’ legacy was the emotion and passion he brought into the studio. He said that once he felt a stirring sensation in his chest, song was ready. “You can try to have formula for a decent song,” he said. “But it only becomes a great song when it hits you in a way that you can’t really explain. That has always been the goal.”
It’s a goal he reached every single time.