Rick James

Pop Musician

Born: 1 February 1948
Died: 6 August 2004 (heart attack)
Birthplace: Buffalo, New York
Best known as: Funky singer of "Super Freak"

Name at birth: James Johnson, Jr.

James was a leading funk singer/songwriter of the 1980s. He got his start as a bassist in various bands before going solo in the late 1970s; his 1978 solo debut Come Get It! included the hits "Mary Jane" and "You and I" and made him a force in the world of danceable funk. His signature hit came from his 1981 album Street Songs; "Super Freak" was nominated for a Grammy and remained a dependable party tune for years. (The rapper MC Hammer had a major 1990 hit with "U Can't Touch This," which featured Hammer rapping over the catchy bass line from "Super Freak.") James's personal life was uproarious; he was arrested several times on drug charges and served nearly two years in California's Folsom Prison (the same prison made famous in "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash) from 1994-96. James was found dead in his Los Angeles home by an assistant on 6 August 2004. Although an autopsy showed the presence of illegal drugs, the official cause of death was a heart attack.

Extra credit: James was briefly bandmates with Neil Young in a 1960s group called the Mynah Birds... James is a nephew of The Temptations member Melvin Franklin.

Copyright © 1998-2015 by Who2?, LLC. All rights reserved.

More on Rick James from Fact Monster:

  • Rick James - Biography of Rick James, Funky singer of "Super Freak"
  • Rick Perry - Perry, Rick Perry, Rick (James Richard Perry), 1950–, American politician, governor of Texas ...
  • Dave Chappelle - Biography of Dave Chappelle, The star of Comedy Central's Chappelle's Show
  • 1990 Grammy Awards - 1990 Grammy Awards Record of the Year “Another Day in Paradise,” Phil Collins Album of ...
  • Selected Biographies: J - Selected biographies of well-known people and fictional characters

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.