Friday, August 06, 2004

FUNKOBIT: RICK JAMES: The death has been announced of Rick James. The 56 year old - remembered as much for a staggering slump into drugs and crime as for 1981's Super Freak - died from natural causes on Friday morning.

Born in Buffalo, New York, and originally James Johnson Junior, James original career path seemed to be nautical. However, despite joining the US Navy at fifteen, he went AWOL. He fled to Toronto, where one of Rick's early tastes of music came in the group the Mynah Birds with Neil Young.He signed to Motown twice - once with a band in the mid-sixties, and then again in 1978. His solo debut Come Get It established him in his own right, and gave him the first taste of the highlife that was eventually to catch up with him:

"We were doing groundbreaking tours, and a lot of drugs and drank a lot. We didn't know anything about Betty Ford or addiction in those days. It's hard to reflect and remember those times. They are very vague to me - a lot of it is a haze."

The haze is understandable, when the sheer amount of crack cocaine he worked his way through is taken into consideration. In 1993, James was convicted of beating up and torturing a masseuse and holding a record label executive and sentenced to five years. Serving three, James emerged and married Tania Hijazi, his partner in those crimes, and launched onto a comeback trail. However, during a show in Denver he burst a blood vessel resulting in a stroke. Although he did continue to play live, James never fully recovered and his health was to take a worse turn in 1998 when he needed hip replacement surgery. His final performance came in June, where he also received a lifetime achievement award (for his music, rather than the beating women up achievements, we imagine.) Amongst other acts he gave a helping hand to were Prince - who had an early support slot on his tour, The Mary Jane Girls, Teena Marie, and MC Hammer, who built his own hit U Cant Touch This round the Super Freak riff. But you can't blame James for that.

Donations in his memory are being directed to the American Cancer Society.

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