Rick James: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Rick James (Getty)

“I’m Rick James Bitch.”

That line brought Rick James into the forefront of the early 2000’s with the Chappelle’s Show sketch as one of the funniest moments of the entire series. With one sketch, James transcended his legendary status as one of the foremost songwriters for Motown, and the mastermind behind the bass line of not one, but two mega-hits with James’ “Super-Freak”, and MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”

However, James had a dark side, and struggled with addiction to the point of serving prison time. James passed away in 2004 and would have celebrated his 69th birthday in early February. Here are 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know about the great Rick James.


1. James Formed a Group with Neil Young called the Mynah Birds

The Mynah Birds – It's My Time w)Rick James & Neil YoungWell Ricky James Matthews had this group in 1965 bouncing around Toronto, and it seems he couldn't keep guitar players. Late winter '65, Bassman Bruce Palmer sees Neil Young on the street with his guitar case, and suggests he join up. Neil, the struggling folk singer agrees, and history is made. Rick James gets a…2011-05-23T04:40:12.000Z

James was a great talent and prolific songwriter. James entered the US Navy to avoid being drafted into war, but deserted to Toronto, Canada where he met up with the likes of Neil Young, and Nick St. Nicholas, of Steppenwolf fame, to form the band The Mynah Birds.

The Mynah Birds released a single on the Canadian division of Columbia Records entitled the “Mynah Bird Hop”/”Mynah Bird Song”. The band relocated to California, and eventually broke up.


2. James Served Prison Time for Kidnapping

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Rick James Performing (Getty)

There were some dark times in Rick James’ life especially in the 1980’s and 1990’s. During those times, James had a significant addiction to crack which hampered his career. He ended up kidnapping two women while under the influence of the drug and served a three-year prison sentence at the Folsom State Prison in California.

James was released in 1996 and went on to record the record Urban Rapsody to little fanfare. James suffered a stroke in 1998 during a live concert.

His exploits and wild lifestyle was chronicled in a Chappelle’s Show skit narrated by Charlie Murphy.


3. James Recorded a Duet with Smokey Robinson called “Ebony Eyes”

Rick James ft. Smokey Robinson – Ebony Eyes (Official Video)Explore the music of Rick James: https://lnk.to/0m6o4 For more Rick James news and merchandise: Classic Motown Website: https://lnk.to/ClassicMotownWS Classic Motown Store: https://lnk.to/ClassicMotownST Music video by Rick James performing Ebony Eyes. (C) 1983 Motown Records, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc. #RickJames #EbonyEyes #Vevo2009-06-17T00:50:06.000Z

James was signed to Motown in the early 80’s as a songwriter. While at Motown he became fast friends with his idols Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye.

James also idolized Temptations lead singer David Ruffin and went on to produce The Temptations 1982 hit “Standing on the Top”. The Temptations returned the favor recording background vocals on two Rick james projects including the song “Ghetto Life” and “Super Freak” from Street Song, and Teena Marie’s “It Must Be Magic.”


4. Salvador Dali Sketched a Portrait of James on a Napkin at a Party

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Salvador Dali (Getty)

Rick James’ Autobiography Glow: The Autobiography of Rick James had many legendary stories in it. But one of the strangest is that of Salvador Dali’s portrait of the eccentric singer.

The story goes; James went to a dinner party in Hawaii where the genius painter, Salvador Dali was a guest as well. Dali kept staring at James, and finally spoke to him saying “Senor, I am mad about the way you look.” and he wanted to sketch James. Apparently Dali spent some time drawing James on a napkin from the table and then gave the small portrait to James.

The next morning, James got high as a kite and went swimming in the shorts he had been wearing the night before…..

With the priceless momento…


5. Rick James’ Caretaker Found him Dead in his LA Home

Rick James – Glow ft. Smokey RobinsonExplore the music of Rick James: https://lnk.to/0m6o4 For more Rick James news and merchandise: Classic Motown Website: https://lnk.to/ClassicMotownWS Classic Motown Store: https://lnk.to/ClassicMotownST Music video by Rick James performing Glow. (C) 1985 Motown Records, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc.2009-06-17T01:14:59.000Z

James was found dead in his Los Angeles home on the morning of August 6, 2004 by his caretaker. The official report was that he died from pulmonary failure and cardiac failure associated with various health conditions of diabetes, stroke, pacemaker and heart attack.

The autopsy found several drugs in his body including alprazolam, diazepam, bupropian, ciitalopram, hydrcodone, digoxin, chlorpheniramine, methamphetamine, and cocaine in his system, although the coroner mentioned that none of the drugs were of lethal dosage. He was buried at the Forest Lawn Cemetary in Buffalo, NY.