Rick James

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Rick James
Rick James

Rick James from Fire It Up LP cover Background information Birth name Also known as Born James Ambrose Johnson, Jr. Big Jimmy; Ricky James Matthews (early career) February 1, 1948 Buffalo, New York, U.S. August 6, 2004 (aged 56) Burbank, California, U.S. R&B, soul, funk, punk-funk Singer, songwriter, dancer, bandleader, record producer Vocal, bass, guitar, keyboards, drums and other percussion instruments 1964–2004 Gordy Records Motown Records Reprise Records Mercury Records

Died

Genres Occupations Instruments Years active Labels

Associated acts The Mynah Birds Stone City Band Heaven and Earth Mary Jane Girls Process and the Doo Rags Val Young Eddie Murphy Teena Marie Notable instruments Rickenbacker 4001 Gibson Les Paul

James Ambrose Johnson, Jr. (February 1, 1948 – August 6, 2004), better known by his stage name Rick James, was an American singer, songwriter, musician and record producer. James was a popular performer in the late 1970s and 1980s, scoring four #1 hits on the U.S. R&B charts performing in the genres of funk, punk rock and R&B. Among his well known songs are "Super Freak", "Mary Jane" and "You and I". In addition to his music, James gained notoriety for his wild lifestyle, which led to widely publicized legal problems, and which was famously spoofed by Chappelle's Show in 2004.

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Childhood
James was born in Buffalo, New York. His father, an autoworker, abandoned him and his siblings when Rick was a child. His mother, a former vaudeville dancer, later reportedly ran errands for a Mafia family to make ends meet. James grew up singing on street corners with fellow neighborhood boys. James' early idols included Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and The Temptations (particularly Melvin Franklin). After briefly becoming involved in street activity, James dropped out of high school at 15 to avoid a possible draft and joined the U.S. Naval Reserve. A year later, James left the Reserve after he began to miss weekend training, because it interfered with his music career.[1]

Early career
Fleeing north to Toronto in the summer of 1964, James, now using the stage name Big Jimmy, continued his musical career. His first band, formed with future Steppenwolf member Nick St. Nicholas was initially called the Sailor Boys but soon changed their name to the Mynah Birds. Bassist Bruce Palmer took over for St. Nicholas in early 1965, and the group soon released their first single, "Mynah Bird Hop"/"Mynah Bird Song" for Columbia Records of Canada. James and Palmer soon formed a new Mynah Birds lineup with guitarists Tom Morgan and Xavier Taylor, and drummer Rick Mason. In early 1966, the Mynah Birds auditioned for the Motown label in Detroit. Morgan was unhappy with the label's attitude towards the musicians and left, with Neil Young taking his place. With Young on board, the Mynah Birds returned to Motown to record an album, but their manager pocketed the advance money the label had given the band. The band fired their manager, who in turn told the label that James was AWOL. Motown told him to give himself up to the FBI, and the Mynah Birds' album was shelved. James spent a year in the Brooklyn Brig, after which he briefly returned to Toronto. During the summer of 1967, Rick James formed a new version of The Mynah Birds (sometimes spelled "Myna Byrds") with Neil Merryweather. The band returned to Detroit and recorded a new version of James and Neil Young's It's My Time, but the band broke up soon afterwards. During early 1968, James returned to Motown and became a songwriter and producer, writing under an assumed name and working with Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Canadian band Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers and The Spinners. In late 1968, James and Greg Reeves moved to Los Angeles, California and formed a band called Salt and Pepper (under the name Rick Matthews) with drummer Steve Rumph from T.I.M.E and Michael Rummans from the Yellow Payges. A later version consisted of Coffi Hall from Mama Lion and Merryweather and guitarist Dave Burt and Keyboardist Ed Roth from Merryweather.[2] Former Buffalo Springfield roadie Chris Sarns played bass for a while, before Ron Johnson from Kaleidoscope stepped in the following year. The group recorded a demo for Atlantic Records, and played at The Fillmore West with Jethro Tull. In 1971, James and Roth both appeared on Buffalo Springfield bassist Bruce Palmer's solo album, The Cycle is Complete. Then they returned to Toronto, where they recorded two singles - Big Showdown and Don't You Worry as part of Heaven and Earth, a band that also featured guitarist Stan Endersby, bass player Denny Gerrard, and drummer Pat Little. Heaven and Earth, minus Little, then merged with another local group, Milestone, to form Great White Cane with horn players Bob Doughty and Ian Kojima, drummer Norman Wellbanks, guitarist Paul C Saenz, and keyboard player John Cleveland Hughes. The group recorded an album for Lion Records in Los Angeles in March 1972, but by that summer, they had disbanded. In 1973 A&M Records released the first Rick James single, "My Mama", which is likely to have been recorded in Los Angeles. In 1976, James and South African guitarist Aidan Mason co-wrote "Get Up and Dance!," which was released as a single but failed to chart. In 1977, he returned to Motown as a songwriter/producer. He soon began recording for Motown's Gordy label, first with the Hot Lips and then with a new version of the Stone City Band.

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Solo career
Rick's breakthrough was "You and I", an eight-minute single from his 1978 debut album Come Get It!. The album also featured his ode to marijuana, "Mary Jane". In 1979 Rick James recorded his second LP Fire it Up, which included the hits "Fire it Up", "Love Gun", and "Come into My Life." For the Fire it Up tour, Rick James asked Prince if he would open up for him. After weeks on tour, Rick James became increasingly annoyed with Prince. According to Rick, Prince was stealing all of his stage tactics to get the audience hype. Rick James became so fed up with Prince he canceled the rest of the tour. In 1981 he recorded his biggest albumStreet Songs, which included James's signature song "Super Freak". The song featured guest vocals by The Temptations, and was sampled for MC Hammer's 1990 Grammy Award-winning song "U Can't Touch This", as well as Jay-Z's "Kingdom Come", released in 2006. Other hits from Street Songs included "Give It to Me Baby", "Fire and Desire" with protégée

Rick with friend Eddie Murphy in '85

Teena Marie, and "Ghetto Life". The stream of hits continued into the mid-1980s with "Teardrops", "Cold Blooded", "Ebony Eyes", "Can't Stop", "You Turn Me On", "P.I.M.P. the S.I.M.P." (with Grandmaster Flash), and "Glow". During this time, in 1983, Rick James struck gold with a girl group made up of his background singers, the Mary Jane Girls. Rick wrote and produced all of their songs including the hits, "All Night Long" and "In My House" in 1983. His last R&B hit was "Loosey's Rap" in 1989, featuring a rap by Roxanne Shante. Rick James also takes writing credit to his good friend Eddie Murphy's one hit "Party All the Time." While he is best known for his up tempo songs in pop circles, the R&B world also remembers him as one of the premier soul balladeers in the late seventies and early eighties. He recorded an early eighties hit with Motown legend Smokey Robinson entitled "Ebony Eyes". He then released the album Cold Blooded, which included the ballad "Tell Me What You Want", a duet with Billy Dee Williams. During this time, he guest-starred on an episode of The A-Team entitled "The Heart of Rock N' Roll", in which he played himself and performed at a prison concert singing "Super Freak". Isaac Hayes also guest starred in this episode.

1990s-2004
The start of the 1990s brought with it a string of bizarre and sometimes horrific incidents for Rick James. He was a known drug user, mainly addicted to crack cocaine, which he often smoked; he later admitted to spending about US$7,000 a week on drugs for five years straight. In 1991, a coked-up James assaulted music executive Mary Sauger, at the St. James Club and Hotel in West Hollywood. Sauger claims she met James and his future wife Tanya Hijazi for a business meeting, but claims the two kidnapped and beat her over a 20-hour period.

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In 1993, while out on bail for that earlier incident, he and Hijazi were accused of holding 24-year old Frances Alley hostage for up to 6 days (accounts vary on how long she was actually held), tying her up, forcing her to perform sexual acts, and burning her legs and abdomen with the hot end of a crack cocaine pipe during a week long cocaine binge. He was found guilty of both offenses, but was cleared of a torture charge in the crack-pipe incident that could have put him in prison for the rest of his life. He served two years in Folsom Prison, and lost US$2 million in a civil suit to one of the women. He was released in 1996, and during interviews for a segment of the VH1 series Behind the Music, he spoke openly about his life and his Street Songs remains Rick's biggest selling and battle with drugs for the first time. The concert footage for the 1996 most memorable Album at 3x Platinum Behind the Music segment was shot just months after James' release and the show itself, produced by Timothy Olague Entertainment at a new Casino in the desert of Southern California, featured James performing each of his hits before a sold-out audience of 10,000 fans. James attempted a comeback with a new album and tour in 1997, but suffered a mild stroke during a concert in Denver, Colorado, effectively ending his musical career. In 1998 he recorded the song "Love Gravy" on the South Park soundtrack along with Ike Turner. In 1999 he appeared on Judge Joe Brown as a plaintiff suing Jerome Turner (J.T.) for a guitar and amp. His last song recording was a re-collaboration with his protégée Teena Marie with the song "I Got You" on her 2004 album La Doña, which was her first studio release after a 10-year hiatus in her music career. In 2003, James was a part of a skit on Chappelle's Show called "Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Stories". He, along with Charlie Murphy (brother of Eddie Murphy) recounted humorous stories of their experiences together during the early 1980s. During the skit, Rick James' character, played by Dave Chappelle, utters the now famous catchphrase "I'm Rick James, Bitch!" The skits were punctuated by James, as himself, explaining his past behavior with the phrase "Cocaine is a hell of a drug!" At the time of his death, he was working on an autobiography, The Confessions of Rick James: Memoirs of a Superfreak, as well as a new album. The book was finally published toward the end of 2007 by Colossus Books. It features a picture of his tombstone. He was also supporting Teena Marie's tour of her album La Doña. I'm Rick James is a documentary about the life and career of Rick James released in 2008. James' daughter, Ty James, is a co-executive producer of the film. The film was originally scheduled to be finished and released in 2006, the filmmakers spent over an additional year tweaking and adding scenes to the film. After almost three years of production, it was completed in December 2007. The film is the only documentary authorized by the estate and family of James. Music producer David Tickle is the Executive Producer, Perry Santos (once an assistant to James Cameron on Titanic) is the producer/director, and HiddenDoor Documedia is the production company. Eddie Griffin, Charlie Murphy, George Clinton and Janice Dickinson, also appear in the film. Eddie Murphy, Freda O'Neal, Jeremiah O'Neal and Teena Marie all declined to appear in the documentary; long time girlfriend Alfie Davison who was a hidden fixture in James life since his signing with Motown in the 1970s, also declined to appear in the film.

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Death
On the morning of August 6, 2004, Rick James was found dead in his Burbank, California, home at the Oakwood apartment complex on Barham Boulevard by his caretaker. James had died from pulmonary failure and cardiac failure with his various health conditions of diabetes, stroke, a pacemaker, and a heart attack. Through his autopsy it was discovered he was under the influence of alprazolam, diazepam, bupropion, citalopram, hydrocodone, digoxin, chlorpheniramine, methamphetamine and cocaine.[3] However the coroner would go on to say; "None of the drugs or drug combinations were found to be at levels that were life threatening in and of themselves."[4] He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.

Discography
Studio albums
• • • • • • • • • • • • • Come Get It! Bustin' Out of L Seven Fire It Up Garden of Love Street Songs Throwin' Down Cold Blooded Glow The Flag Wonderful Kickin' Urban Rapsody Deeper Still

References
[1] "'Super Freak' singer Rick James dies" (http:/ / www. cnn. com/ 2004/ SHOWBIZ/ Music/ 08/ 06/ rick. james/ index. html). CNN. August 7, 2004. . Retrieved May 22, 2010. [2] "Rick James Multimedia Information" (http:/ / www. sandiegoaccountantsguide. com/ library/ Rick-James. php). . Retrieved July 17, 2010. [3] Sisario, Ben (September 18, 2004). "ARTS BRIEFING: HIGHLIGHTS; Rick James Autopsy Results" (http:/ / query. nytimes. com/ gst/ fullpage. html?res=9905E4D61739F93BA2575AC0A9629C8B63). The New York Times. . Retrieved May 22, 2010. [4] Sisario, Ben (September 18, 2004). "ARTS BRIEFING: HIGHLIGHTS; Rick James Autopsy Results" (http:/ / query. nytimes. com/ gst/ fullpage. html?res=9905E4D61739F93BA2575AC0A9629C8B63#). The New York Times. . Retrieved May 22, 2010.

External links
• • • • Rick James official site (http://www.rickjames.com) Rick James, The Mynah Birds and Neil Young (http://www.thrasherswheat.org/friends/rick-james.htm) Rick James (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0416872/) at the Internet Movie Database Grave site (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=james&GSfn=Rick&GSiman=1& GScid=64570&GRid=9276693&,)

Article Sources and Contributors

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Article Sources and Contributors
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Image Sources, Licenses and Contributors
File:Rickjames.jpg  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Rickjames.jpg  License: unknown  Contributors: Jaggysnake2, Melesse Image:Murphy james.png  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Murphy_james.png  License: unknown  Contributors: Jaggysnake2, Melesse Image:Streetsongs.JPG  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Streetsongs.JPG  License: unknown  Contributors: Jaggysnake2, Melesse

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