I know I’ll be adding a Rick James LP to the collection eventually since I’m pretty disappointed to just have a few singles from my dad. I absolutely love Rick James. My mom once gave me a birthday card that played Super Freak and I still have it to this day because it made me so happy.
Rick James (born James Ambrose Johnson, Jr.; February 1, 1948 – August 6, 2004) was an American musician and composer.
Influenced by singers such as Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson, James started singing in doo-wop and R&B groups as a teenager in his hometown of Buffalo, New York. After entering the United States Navy to avoid getting drafted, he deserted to Toronto, where he formed the fusion band. James’ tenure with the group was interrupted after he was discovered recording with the group in Motown in 1966. Surrendering to military authorities, he served a one-year prison term. Upon release, James moved to California to resume his duties with the group though they eventually split. James began a series of rock bands in the California area and worked with Motown as a songwriter.
In 1977, he signed with the Gordy Records imprint of Motown as a recording artist, releasing his debut, Come Get It!, in April 1978. The album sold over two million copies and launched his career into the mainstream as a funk and soul artist. His most popular album, 1981’s Street Songs, launched him into superstardom thanks to the hit singles, “Give It to Me Baby” and “Super Freak”. After being credited as writer of the song, James became the 1990 recipient of a Best R&B Song Grammy for composing the song.
In addition to his own success, James emerged as a successful songwriter and producer for other artists, such as Teena Marie, The Temptations, Eddie Murphy, Smokey Robinson and more.
An addiction to crack hampered his career by the late 1980s. In the 1990s, his legal troubles, which included assaulting two women while under the influence of crack, led him to serve a three-year sentence at California’s Folsom State Prison. James was released on parole in 1996 and resumed his musical career releasing the album in 1997. A mild stroke suffered during a concert in early 1998 interrupted his career for a brief time.
James received new notoriety in 2004 when he appeared on an episode of Dave Chappelle’s Chappelle Show in the Charlie Murphy “True Hollywood Stories” segment of the show, in which James’ past wild lifestyle was satirized. James died later that year from heart failure at the age of 56.