James Arthur Griffin, an Academy Award-winning singer/songwriter and guitarist who was also a founding member of several soft rock and country bands, died on Jan. 11 from complications of cancer. He was 61.
Born in Cincinnati and reared in Memphis, Griffin moved to Hollywood, Calif., in 1962, with hopes of breaking into the music business. He released a solo debut (“Summer Holiday”) and several pop singles, then joined forces with keyboardist/vocalist David Gates and guitarist/vocalist Robb Royer to form the soft rock group Bread.
Bread released a self-titled debut in 1968, but it failed to attract much attention. The band’s sophomore release, “On the Waters,” went gold and featured the chart-topper “Make It With You.” Several hits followed, including “If,” “Mother Freedom,” “Baby I’m-a Want You” and “Everything I Own.” In 1973, Griffin left the band due to creative differences with Gates. He rejoined three years later, but more fighting ensued, and Bread soon disbanded amidst rancor and lawsuits.
Although Gates penned most of Bread’s hit songs, Griffin was a talented songwriter in his own right. He wrote the county song “Who’s Gonna Know,” which became a hit for Conway Twitty, and shared a 1970 Oscar for best original song with Royer and Fred Karlin. The trio co-wrote “For All We Know” for the film, “Lovers and Other Strangers.” The song was also a Top 5 hit for The Carpenters.
Griffin later released a second solo album (“James Griffin”) and formed the country band Black Tie with former Eagles’ bassist Randy Meisner and singer Billy Swan. He and the country band, the Remingtons, scored a Top 10 single in 1992 with “A Long Time Ago.”