Funk saxophonist Jimmy Castor dies in Las Vegas at 71

Jimmy Castor, a New York funk and soul saxophonist, singer and songwriter whose tune "It's Just Begun" morphed over 40 years into an anthem for generations of hip-hoppers and mainstream musical acts, died of heart failure at Saint Rose Dominican Hospital in Las Vegas , family members said Tuesday. He was 71.

Castor's music, including another 1972 hit, "Troglodyte," spoke for itself thousands of times in riffs and samples by performers such as N.W.A., 2 Live Crew, Kanye West, Ice Cube and Mos Def, and acts such as the Spice Girls, Christina Aguilera and Madonna.

His son, Jimmy Castor Jr., 45, a filmmaker from Redondo Beach, Calif., said he has seen instant recognition hundreds of times at the first notes of the sax line of "It's Just Begun" -- even before the lyrics begin. ("Watch me now. Feel the groove. Into something. Gonna make you move.")

"No matter what country you're in, no matter what language you speak, everyone knows it," Jimmy Castor Jr. said in Las Vegas.

Jimmy Castor was hospitalized in November after suffering a heart attack and underwent quadruple bypass surgery. He died Monday, his son said.

Castor, head of the musical group the Jimmy Castor Bunch, lived with his wife, Sandi, in Henderson .

Castor, born in New York City, started as doo-wop singer, even briefly replacing Frankie Lymon in the Teenagers. His sax playing landed him studio work. As a solo artist and band leader he recorded several other groove-oriented hits, including "Hey, Leroy, Your Mama's Callin' You," "The Bertha Butt Boogie," "King Kong" and "E-Man Boogie."