Rick James was an American musician signed (most consistently) to Motown from the late 1970s to the late 1980s.
He grew up in New York and began singing in various local doo-wop and R&B groups. He was introduced to drugs at a young age (even claiming that he lost his virginity at the age of 9 or 10) and was arrested for burglary as a teen. To avoid being drafted into the army, Rick joined the navy, but then deserted and formed a band, The Mynah Birds, who, in 1966, signed with and recorded for Motown.
The navy then found him; he was arrested and spent a year in prison. After being released, he returned to Motown as a songwriter. He went on to form several bands who released material under different labels, most notably The Stone City Band, with whom he signed to Motown (again) in 1978.
Rick then released his first solo album (backed by The Stone City Band) and from there went on to achieve huge success with his own style of “punk funk” music. His most successful album, Street Songs, was released in 1981, and contained his biggest and best-known hit “Super Freak”. He followed it up with several other albums that went gold under the Motown label (as well as producing and songwriting for several other artists) until he left the company in 1986.
He had already become addicted to drugs and his later work was hampered as a result; his legendarily bad behaviour sparked legal difficulties and even a two-year prison stretch towards the end of the 1990s. He was working on a new album and an autobiography when, in 2004, he died of a heart attack.
Marvellous Motown currently recommends two songs by Rick James – click on the link above for our archive or click on a specific song below: