I hesitated to write about Rick James because his life was one of the most complicated and out-of-control of any artist in the days of over-indulgence. But let's give it a try: When Rick was drafted in the mid-60's, he joined the Navy to avoid the muck of Vietnam. But the Buffalo Boy didn't much care about military discipline and deserted from the Navy going to Toronto, Canada. Once there, Rick formed a band there called The Mynah Birds, with none other than Neil Young a member.
In typical James style, he traveled to Detroit where he was discovered recording at Motown, arrested and spent a year in prison. Upon release he relocated to Los Angeles where he worked as a songwriter for Motown and landed a deal as a singer with Motown's Gordy Records.
His first album, "Come Get It" sold 2 million units, and established him in the Funk and Soul world, but it was his second Long-player, "Street Songs" in 1981 that proved he was an artist to be reckoned with, driven by the Hit Singles, "Give It To Me Baby" and "Super Freak." But this talented man had started doing drugs as a teenager with Pot and Heroin, and continued for most of his life culminating with crack cocaine which often made him crazy. Rick was actually a sweet man and his friends, including Eddie Murphy, tried to get him straight to no avail.
In 1991 Rick and his fiance, a 17-year-old party girl named, Tanya Hijazi, kidnapped a woman and kept her hostage for a week, doing unspeakable things to her while on a cocaine binge. None of his friends and supporters ever quite understood what that was about, but it in put him in Folsom Prison for the next three years. Then while on parole, he and Ms Tanya kidnapped a music industry exec from the tony St. James Club and took her home and beat her for almost a full day.
But maybe the weirdest thing is that while all this was going on he continued to make music and write for others when not loaded out of his mind or behind bars. In 1991 he won the R&B Songwriting Grammy for "Super Freak" after MC Hammer used it for his biggest hit, "U Can't Touch This."
It was no surprise when Rick James was found dead in his apartment in 2004 of pulmonary failure and cardiac failure at age 56, but it was a surprise that he lived that long. As I said at the beginning, I hesitated to write about Ricky's life and death, but it's truly a cautionary tale and deep dive into the consequences some folks suffer from Fame and Fortune.
Let's think positive thoughts now and watch Rick James at his peak doing his signature song "Super Freak," well produced with great audio. @therealdonrocks