He earned a degree in composition from San Francisco Conservatory in 1967.
He became a member of the SoulMusic Hall of Fame in December 2012.
He was married to his wife Corine for 40 years, until she died from complications due to cancer in 2012. He would die from chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 2013. They had two sons, Rashid and John.
He provided original compositions for Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" album.