James Charles Varner
10/23/1963 - 05/14/2023

 

*Click here to livestream the Celebration of Life on Tuesday, August 8th at 11am*

James Charles Varner, known to most as Jimmy, a beloved father, son, brother, and friend, transitioned peacefully in his sleep on Mother’s Day, May 14, 2023. He was 59. Jimmy started playing the piano as a child in Plainfield, NJ, much to the delight of his parents, James Varner and Florence Ann (Johanson) Varner.  Florence Ann now deceased (April 19, 2009) was a music lover and jazz pianist with a lovely raspy voice. Needless to say, the Varner home was always filled with music and laughter. Jimmy began his career playing the piano, then keyboards and writing songs and incredible poems for family and friends. By middle school years the family moved to Madison, NJ. Jimmy began to put Battle of the Bands wins under his belt with friends like Nayan and Milan Lassiter and he even won a state level trophy as a young jazz pianist and vocalist in High School. He began to parlay his talent and grit to the NYC live music scene. After high school, Jimmy attended the elite Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, where he made lifelong friends like Don Wyatt, Donald Mayes, Reginald “Cool Reg” Love, and Will Calhoun of the iconic rock band Living Colour.  Fame couldn’t wait and soon Jimmy was off touring the world with Bill Withers, his father’s favorite singer.  While touring he met his former wife Mikelyn (Lynn) Roderick and they soon welcomed their daughter, Elle – Gabrielle Serene Varner. Family and friends were everything to Jimmy, but music was his passion, so the young family made Los Angeles, CA, their new home. Jimmy and Lynn formed the group, By All Means with Billy Sheppard, and recorded 3 albums on Island Records and Motown.  In the 1990s, Jimmy became an in-house producer for Motown Records and worked with the Motown roster, which included such artists as Diana Ross, The Temptations, Gerald Alston and The Pointer Sisters.  With LA as his new home base, family and friends always had a place to stay, no questions asked, most notably Dave “Captain Getdown” Foreman, his longtime bandmate, collaborator, and dearest friend. In recent years, Jimmy continued to be active as a producer, working with small record labels before turning his focus toward working with his daughter, Elle, on her music career. He returned to the east coast now calling Brooklyn, NY home. In his life and career, he covered every area of the music business. He managed his daughter Elle and helped her to create a successful independent touring business and record label, TwoTwelve Enterprises; in addition to his very own SoulStar Media Group, that also provided world class production from his boutique recording studio. Jimmy is survived by his daughter Gabrielle Varner; his father, social activist James Varner of Old Town, ME; brother Mark Edward Varner of Gates County, NC with his daughter, Janae Shamelle; brother Carl Robert Varner of Lebanon, NJ with his wife Carla, daughter Cheyenne Faith, (Husband Patrick Mamou), granddaughter Naella Amel, daughter Elan Patrice Uka, (Husband Chijike Uka), son Miles Augustus, and daughter Sabrinia Elizabeth; and sister April Joy Varner-Nanton (husband Frank Nanton), daughter Virginia Grace and son Frank James. As close as brothers he leaves, Eddie Simmons of Arlington, TX, and Don Eric Mayes of Fort Worth, TX. He leaves Bobby and Christian Debarge, his bonus sons from whom he took great pride and honor in helping to raise, his longtime girlfriend Grammy Award winner Gina Figueroa aka Gina Fuego of Manhattan, and his dear friend and business partner Said Mathis of Corpus Christi, TX. Jimmy is also survived by his Aunt Lucille Varner of Huntsville, AL, cousin Eddie Varner Jr (wife Valerie) and Francine Patterson (husband Dave); Aunt Wilhemina Varner of Silver Spring, MD and cousin Kim Varner; Aunt Annie Varner of Atlanta, GA and cousin Robert Varner Jr (wife Kristen); cousins Steve Lowery (wife Harriet), Bernadine (Lowery) Wynn (husband Channing), Rodney Lowery; cousin Ariem Anthony (wife Marcy) and family. The list of family and friends that loved and enjoyed Jimmy’s Big Soul are literally too many to mention. Jimmy had a great passion for music, life, and most importantly family. His greatest wish would be for us all to live and love to the fullest- as he did in his incredible time here. He is now our forever angel; may our hearts sing with joy.


Funeral Home:
Wm. A. Bradley & Son Funeral Home
Funeral:
A Celebration of Life will be held on Tuesday August 8, 2023 at 11 o'clock am at Union Baptist Church - 240 West 145th Street, New York, NY 10039.
Memorial Gifts:
If you would like to make a donation in Jimmy's name, please consider contributing to the Go Fund Me Page
Bradley Funeral Homes
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