The unsung Jimmy Norman displayed his creativity in many different places during a long career largely underknown to the general public. He was perhaps most identifiable as a lyricist and songwriter, working with Bob Marley, Eddie Palmieri, Johnny Nash, Irma Thomas, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Tosh, Shorty Rogers and others.
Born in Nashville, he grew up on the West Coast and started singing and recording with local doo-wop group The Chargers, including Jesse Belvin's "Dandilyon". (It was Belvin who spotted them and recommended them to RCA Victor. He did a bunch of touring as a musician in the '50s and wrote music for Broadway. He recorded with the Dyna-Sores and dented the charts a few times in the '60s.
In '64 he got the call to write lyrics for a session with Irma Thomas. "Time Is On My Side", a Kai Winding composition, got the Norman lyrical boost and aside from Irma's great version it would also become a huge hit for the Rolling Stones. In '66 he recorded the single "You're Only Hurting Yourself" / "That Little Old Groovemaker", mostly notable in that it included a young Jimi Hendrix in the band. (Several Hendrix bootlegs have material from these and other sessions with Norman as singer or musician).
Around this time he was also writing songs for Johnny Nash. With that notable gig, young Bob Marley hired Norman in '68 to write music. (Check the Marley LP Chances Are). He spent a year and a half in Jamaica with Marley and during his time there Norman wrote songs and worked with Tosh, Byron Lee & the Dragonaires and others.
In '68 he recorded a version of Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Gangster of Love" and in '69 joined the new look Coasters as member/producer, staying through the '90s. He was a major part of the '71 classic Latin-soul album Harlem River Drive, with Eddie Palmieri, Bernard Purdie and an amazing crew of players. Jimmy was lyricist and lead vocalist on the album.
After some health issues he made a 2004 comeback album, Little Pieces, released on Judy Collins' label Wildflower which was a critical success. He passed in 2011. Despite his contributions as a songwriter, he unfortunately received little financial reward for his services.