reggie lucas

Lucas epitomized cool onstage in the early '70s, during his years with Miles Davis. He played on Davis' classic albums Pangaea and Agharta, among others. Later, he penned Madonna's "Borderline." Courtesy of reggielucas.com

From playing classic soul to breaking ground with Miles Davis to crafting pop hits for Stephanie Mills and Madonna, the guitarist-producer led a dazzling and varied career.

Guitarist Reggie Lucas, who had a wildly varied career—from backing soul vocalists Billy Paul and Roberta Flack to playing in Miles Davis' groundbreaking early '70s electric bands to performing on Olatunji's world-music classic Soul Makossa to producing the majority of Madonna's debut album—died on Saturday, May 19, due to complications from heart disease. He was 65.

The New York City native began playing with Davis at age 19, in 1972, and appeared on that year's Miles Davis In Concert. While guitarists like Pete Cosey and John McLaughlin took the role of 6-string soloist in Davis' ensembles of the era, Lucas played a more foundational part. His rhythm work helped define the music's sturdy spine. Nonetheless, Lucas was a strong blues-based lead guitarist, as his first solo album, 1976's Survival Themes, displays on tunes like “Slewfoot," on which he trades between gutty single-notes lines and a classic wah-wah scratch.

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