Irvine, an African American, was born in Hampton, Virginia on October 27, 1943. He moved to New York City in 1965. He was involved with various musical genres including Jazz-Funk, jazz, hip hop, funk, rhythm and blues, and gospel. He served as the bandleader for jazz singer Nina Simone and was a mentor to many New York hip-hop artists, including Q-Tip and Mos Def. He wrote over 500 songs, including the lyrics for "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black", performed live for the first time by Nina Simone on the album Black Gold (1970). It has been dubbed the "official" Civil Rights anthems.
In 2000 Irvine provided the vocal introductions to tracks on the first CD of the album Late Night Blues by UK Drum & Bass producer Big Bud. He co-wrote and performed vocals and played the Fender Rhodes on the first track entitled Return of Spiritman. He also played the Fender Rhodes on closing track Persian Blues.
Irvine's last major project was The Price of Freedom (1999), a compilation of original songs by hip-hop, jazz, funk, and R&B artists to respond to the shooting of Amadou Diallo. Irvine committed suicide outside of EAB Plaza and in front of the Nassau Coliseum located in Uniondale, New York on April 9, 2002.
As Leader 
- 1972: Liberated Brother (Nodlew)
- 1973: Time Capsule (Nodlew)
- 1974: Cosmic Vortex - Justice Divine (RCA Records)
- 1975: Spirit Man (RCA Records)
- 1976: Sinbad (RCA Records)
- 1979: The Sisters (Saucerman)
- 1994: Music Is the Key (Luv N Haight)
- 1995: Keyboards Wild DJ's Smile (Tuff City Records)
- 1998: Embrace the Positive (Nodlew)
- 2000: The Amadou Project: The Price of Freedom (Nodlew)
As Sideman 
- Comin' on Home (Blue Note, 1971)
With Big Bud
- Late Night Blues (Good Looking Records, 2000)
- Earth Volume 5 (Track: Amigo Mio) (Good Looking Records, 2001)