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Rick James

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Bio

In the late '70s, when the fortunes of Motown Records seemed to be flagging, Rick James came along and rescued the company, providing funky hits that updated the label's style and saw it through into the mid-'80s. Actually, James had been with Motown earlier, though nothing had come of it. After growing up in Buffalo and running away to join the Naval Reserves, he ran away from the Navy to Toronto, where he was in a band with future Buffalo Springfield members Neil Young and Bruce Palmer, and with Goldy McJohn, later of Steppenwolf. As the Mynah Birds, they signed to Motown and recorded, though no record was ever released. James had a journeyman's career playing bass in various groups before signing again to Motown as an artist, songwriter, and producer. His first single, "You and I" (May 1978), topped the R&B charts and reached the pop Top 40. "Mary Jane" (September 1978) was another hit. Both were on James' debut album, Come Get It! (June 1978), which went gold. Subsequent efforts were not as successful, though Bustin' Out of L Seven (January 1979) featured the R&B hit "Bustin' Out" (April 1979). James returned to form with the number one R&B hit "Give It to Me Baby" (March 1981), featured on the million-selling Street Songs (April 1981), which also featured the hit "Super Freak." James turned his production attention to resuscitating the career of the Temptations, recently returned to Motown, and "Standing on the Top" (April 1982), credited to the Temptations featuring Rick James, was an R&B Top Ten. (He also produced recordings by Teena Marie and the Mary Jane Girls.) James' follow-up to Street Songs was the gold-selling Throwin' Down (May 1982), which featured the hit "Dance Wit' Me." The title song of Cold Blooded (August 1983) became James' third R&B number one, and the album also featured his hit duet with Smokey Robinson, "Ebony Eyes." James' greatest-hits album Reflections (August 1984) featured the new track "17" (June 1984), which also became a hit. Glow (April 1985) contained Top Ten R&B singles in the title track and "Can't Stop," which was featured in the summer movie blockbuster Beverly Hills Cop. The Flag (June 1986) featured the hit "Sweet and Sexy Thing" (May 1986). James left Motown for the Reprise division of Warner Bros. Records as of the album Wonderful (July 1988), which featured his number one R&B hit "Loosey's Rap," on which he was accompanied by rapper Roxanne Shante. Nevertheless, his "punk funk" didn't seem to rest comfortably with the trend toward rap/hip-hop. In 1989, James charted briefly with a medley of the Drifters hits "This Magic Moment" and "Dance With Me." In 1990, MC Hammer scored a massive hit with "U Can't Touch This," which consisted of his rap over the instrumental track of "Super Freak." That should have made for a career rebirth, but James was plagued by drug and legal problems that found him more frequently in court and in jail rather than in the recording studio. The majority of his legal woes behind him, James returned in 1997 with Urban Rapsody, which didn't yield any hits but was well accepted by critics. Rick James died of a heart attack on August 6, 2004, at his Los Angeles home. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Albums by
Rick James

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    10 songs

    On Air

    Cold Canyon Road

    10 songs

    On Air

    Cold Blooded

    13 songs

    On Air

    Throwin' Down

    11 songs

    On Air

    Wonderful

    25 songs

    On Air

    Street Songs [Deluxe Edition]

    3 songs

    On Air

    No Parkink

    7 songs

    On Air

    Bang Some Coal On

    9 songs

    On Air

    Garden of Love [Bonus Tracks]

    8 songs

    On Air

    Street Songs

    7 songs

    On Air

    Fire It Up

    8 songs

    On Air

    Bustin' Out of L Seven

    9 songs

    On Air

    Come Get It!

    14 songs

    On Air

    Glow

    10 songs

    On Air

    Kickin'

    109 songs

    On Air

    The Complete Motown Albums

    15 songs

    On Air

    The Flag

    17 songs

    On Air

    The Definitive Collection

    3 songs

    On Air

    This Magic Moment/Dance With Me

    1 song

    On Air

    Deeper Still

    11 songs

    On Air

    Deeper Still

    28 songs

    On Air

    Anthology

    10 songs

    On Air

    20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best of Rick James

    10 songs

    On Air

    Crime Wave (Instrumentals)

    18 songs

    On Air

    Name Your Price

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Top Songs by
Rick James

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   Super Freak
  3.   Give It to Me Baby
  4.   Mary Jane
  5.   You and I
  6.   Fire and Desire
  7.   Bustin' Out (On Funk)
  8.   Cold Blooded
  9.   Dance Wit' Me
  10.   Ebony Eyes
  11.   Ghetto Life
  12.   Happy
  13.   Dream Maker
  14.   Love Gun
  15.   17
  16.   Glow
  17.   Call Me Up
  18.   Mr. Policeman
  19.   Dance Wit' Me, Pt. 1
  20.   Spacey Love
  21.   U Bring the Freak Out
  22.   Mission
  23.   Sherry Baby
  24.   You Turn Me On
  25.   Stone City Band, Hi!
  26. See All Songs

Stations & Shows Featuring
Rick James

    On Air

    Disco Hits

    On Air

    Old-School BBQ

    On Air

    55 Greatest Old School Songs

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    Funk

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    Chromeo: I Am The DJ

    On Air

    55 Best Motown Songs

    On Air

    55 Nuttiest Artists

    On Air

    Prince: DNA

    On Air

    Smooth Jams

    On Air

    66 Songs That Changed The '80s

    On Air

    R&B Deep Dive

    On Air

    Old School R&B

    On Air

    Disco Inferno

    On Air

    Burn One Down

    On Air

    James Brown: DNA

    On Air

    Disco Deep Dive

    On Air

    Funk Classics

    On Air

    Bruno Mars: DNA

    On Air

    Michael Jackson: DNA

    On Air

    All-Time Hits

    On Air

    Chicano Old School

    On Air

    Party Hits

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    '80s Hits

    On Air

    Grand Theft Radio

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