James Abros Johnson Jr., the singer, multi-instrumentalist, and fiery songwriter, rose to prominence as the uncrowned king of funk. Born in Buffalo, New York, James was never far from controversy, and while it began as a rock and roll rebellion, the kind we see all over, James’ demons soon saw him turn into a nightmare. But did you know why the singer left the United States?
Rick James fled the United States after receiving a Vietnam draft card and eventually settled in Canada. There he met Neil Young and began his musical career.
Who is Rick James?
Rick James, an African American musician, was a popular performer in the late 1970s. James began singing on the streets of his hometown of Buffalo at a young age. You and I, his breakthrough song from the album Come Get It! was the first in a long line of successes. In the late 1990s, James struggled with drug addiction and served time for sexual assault. (Source: Biography)
The Early Life and Career of Rick James
The Mynah Birds, which included future Buffalo Springfield members Neil Young and Bruce Palmer, were James’ first band. Despite recording in Motown, the group never released an album, partly due to James’ AWOL status. In 1968, he returned to write and produce under Terry Johnson. James played bass for several short-lived bands in Los Angeles, California, for the next several years, including Salt, Pepper ‘N’ Cocaine, and Great White Cane.
In 1977, James left Los Angeles to rejoin Motown and launch his solo career. Come and Get It! is his debut album. The singles You and I and Mary Jane propelled him to fame. James was known as The King of Punk-Funk for his wild brand of danceable funk music and his trademark braids. Fire It Up and Bustin’ Out of L Seven, released in 1979, were also successful.
His biggest hit, the Grammy-nominated Super Freak, was released in 1981 on the album Street Songs, along with other popular singles such as Give It to Me Baby, Fire and Desire, and Ghetto Life, as well as subsequent hits such as Teardrops, Cold Blooded, and Glow. (Source: Biography)
Rick James and His Drug Addiction
James’ cocaine use had spiraled out of control by the early 1990s. He served two years in prison and paid $2 million in a civil suit after being convicted of assaulting two women. He attempted a comeback after his release in 1995, but a mild stroke in 1997 ended his career.
On August 6, 2004, James died of pulmonary and cardiac failure at his home in Burbank, California. The musician had at least nine different drugs in his system. This included meth and cocaine.
None of the drugs or drug combinations were found to be at levels that were life-threatening in and of themselves. Still, it’s believed that the substances in his body, as well as his long history of drug abuse, contributed to his early demise.Los Angeles County Coroner
The coroner’s findings did not provide closure to James’ loved ones. It saddened them to know that the musician raved his body to the extent of no return. (Source: Biography)
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