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James F. Sheffield-DeWees '00

A life in music -- an artist’s Heart and Soul. James -- son of Joellen Sheffield and Daniel DeWees; brother to Christopher, Harry and Pamela DeWees; uncle to Ross, Katrina, Joe and Tyler DeWees; and deeply beloved friend and mentor to so many more was born and raised with an infectious smile in the South Street Seaport, Manhattan and Park Slope, Brooklyn.

From day one James was interested in music -- he began studying music at the Third Street Music School at age 4 and continued until age 14. During this time James studied the violin, piano, upright bass and music theory.

As James became a teenager he discovered the art of DJing and this love and passion carried him all the way to present. James is almost exactly as old as the hip hop/ rap culture and it should be said that they grew together. James is from a time in New York City that is harder to see now, when culture was everywhere and he embodied all of this and kept its remnant close to his heart.

Although he hated the word "curator" James spent much of his adult life collecting and celebrating the art and artists of downtown New York City from his youth. As his friend and early collaborator Talib Kweli said, "He carved an awesome life out of the carcass of old New York."

James made lasting friendships at Washington Market Nursery school which continued through elementary at PS 234 Independent school, Clinton Junior High and Fiorello LaGuardia High School for the Arts where he was a drama major. Earlier in life he performed at the legendary La Mama Theater in the East Village and toured Italy performing in Greek tragedies.

He graduated with a degree in musical psychology from Antioch College in Yellow Springs Ohio, a place he loved deeply and a subject he loved even more so.

Throughout James’ life he was a seeker of new friends and new cultures. At an early age he spent time in New Mexico and this was a big inspiration for him. Before high school he spent time in the Czech Republic and was instrumental in bringing a friend to the states where they spent a summer traveling around while James showed him America.

In college James took a trip to Ethiopia where he, like all the other places he travelled, embedded himself in the culture as if a member of their society rather than a tourist. Ever the diplomat, James had the unique ability to go beyond societal lines and groups of friends and join them together. He always wanted everyone to be involved and not feel left out.

Fairness, justice and making sure others were having a good time was always most important. During High School James helped to form the underground hip hop group Sight Beyond Light and later the Independent record labels Low Tech Records and Nightpeople. Under the moniker BLU JEMZ, he was a DJ staple in the nightclub scenes of Los Angeles, New York and Internationally.

An accomplished music producer, radio host and pseudo executive, he always championed others' talents and was emotionally involved in their progress and success. A lover of film, fine art and fashion as well, it is undeniable that his was an artist’s heart. Tried and true, James was an avid sports fan. He loved basketball and tennis and played a mean game of the latter.

His spirituality was Music -- he lives on with all of us through music, not just his own music, but all music. As John Cage said, "Everything we do is music," -- and everything James did was music as well. Many Blessings, James Sheffield DeWees -- you are an authentic, truly independent artist, the most joyful spirit and you are forever a part of our heart and soul. Please write James’ mother, Joellen Sheffield, with your memories and personal thoughts at Joellensheffield@gmail.com