Saturday, April 6, 2024

Rick James


"I had always been a free spirit, and always gotten what I wanted."

Rick James was born James Ambrose Johnson, Jr. in Buffalo, New York on February 1, 1948.  While still a teenager, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve.  Then in 1964, he moved to Toronto, where he formed his first band, The Mynah Birds.  The group signed a deal with Motown Records, which put Rick back on the Navy's radar.  He was convicted of desertion and spent several months in jail.

In the 1970s, Rick returned to Buffalo and formed the Stone City Band, which proved very popular in local circles.  As a result, he signed with Motown's Gordy Records and released his first album, Come Get It.  Other albums would follow, including his most successful, 1981's Street Songs.  It included the single for which he is most famously known, Superfreak.

By the early 1990s, Rick's career was on the decline, hampered by his ongoing drug addiction.  He also faced a series of legal problems including two separate instances of kidnapping (!) for which he served a three-year sentence at famed Folsom State Prison.  He was released in 1996 but would suffer a stroke just two years later.  He'd spend the next six years under the watchful eye of a caretaker.

On August 6, 2004, Rick was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment.  His official cause of death was natural causes, a combination of heart failure, diabetes, and a stroke.  An autopsy revealed that his system was swimming with drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamine, Xanax, and so many more.  However, the coroner stated that none of these drugs were at the level that could have resulted in fatality.  Trust the science!

Following a public viewing at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Rick was returned to Buffalo.  A public funeral was held at St. John's Baptist Church, where 6,000 fans came to say goodbye.  Following the service, Rick was cremated, and his ashes were buried at Forest Lawn in Buffalo.

Rest in peace.


  • The inscription on Rick's headstone reads "I've had it all, I've done it all, I've seen it all, it's all about love....God is Love."  It's a quote from his hit single Taste.  Take a listen on YouTube.

  • If you want to learn more about Rick James, take a voyage over to Amazon.  It's all in books!

  • Rick appeared (and performed) as himself on a 1985 episode of The A-Team.  Curious?  Here's a clip.

  • Rick's uncle, Melvin Franklin, was a member of The Temptations.  Rick worked as a writer and producer on their 1982 Reunion album.

  • Did you ever think that MC Hammer's U Can't Touch This sounds a lot like Superfreak?  So did Rick, who sued Hammer in 1990.  The case was settled out of court, and today, Rick has received a songwriting credit for Hammer's hit single.  Rick proved that he could, in fact, touch it, when he was included on the Grammy award the song won for Best Rhythm and Blues in 1991.  Ironically, it was the only Grammy he ever won.

No comments:

Post a Comment