Today's artist started singing in doo-wop and R&B groups as a teenager in his hometown of Buffalo, New York. More than a decade later, in the late '70s, when the fortunes of Motown Records seemed to be flagging, our man came along and rescued the company, providing funky hits that updated the label's style and saw it through into the mid-'80s. His epitath states "I've had it all, I've done it all, I've seen it all. It's all about love – God is love ..... ..... N'joy
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James Ambrose Johnson, Jr. was born on February 1, 1948, in Buffalo, New York, to Mabel (née Sims) and James Ambrose Johnson, Sr. He was one of eight children. James' father, an autoworker, left the family when James was ten. His mother was a dancer for Katherine Dunham, and later ran errands for a Mafia-connected mob, just to feed her family. James' mother would take him on her collecting route, and it was in bars where she worked that James got to see performers such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Etta James perform. James claimed later in the autobiography, Glow, that he lost his virginity at "age 9 or 10" to a 14-year-old local girl, claiming his "kinky nature came in early". James eventually attended Orchard Park High School and Bennett High School prior to dropping out. James was introduced to drugs at an early age and, as a young teen, was busted for burglary. Due to his stints in jail for theft, James entered the United States Navy at 14 or 15, lying about his age, to avoid the draft. During that time, he also became a drummer for local jazz groups in New York City. Due to him missing his twice-monthly Reserve sessions at the USS Enterprise, he found himself ordered to Vietnam.
In 1965, he fled for Toronto, where he made friendships with then-local musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. To avoid being caught by military authorities, James went under the assumed name, "Ricky James Matthews". That same year, James formed the Mynah Birds, a band that produced a fusion of soul, folk and rock music. In 1965, the band briefly recorded for the Canadian division of Columbia Records, releasing the single, "Mynah Bird Hop"/"Mynah Bird Song". At one point, Nick St. Nicholas of later Steppenwolf fame was a member; eventually bassist Bruce Palmer replaced him by the time "Mynah Bird Hop" was recorded. James and Palmer would recruit guitarists Tom Morgan and Xavier Taylor and drummer Rick Mason to form a new Mynah Birds lineup, and soon traveled to Detroit to record with Motown. Before the group began recording their first songs for the label, Morgan left, unhappy about the label's attitude towards the musicians. Neil Young eventually took his place. It was while in Detroit that James met his musical heroes, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. After meeting Wonder and telling him his name, Wonder felt the name "Ricky James Matthews" was "too long", and instead told James to shorten it to "Ricky James".
After James got involved in a fight with the group's financial backer in Toronto, the Navy was given a tip regarding James' whereabouts and the singer was soon arrested. Afterwards, Motown dropped the band from the label, and James spent a year in prison. After his release, James moved to California where he resumed his musical career. After forming a duo with musician Greg Reeves, Reeves was soon hired to work as a musician for the rock supergroup, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. James returned to Motown as a songwriter in 1968, under the assumed name "Rickie Matthews", and worked with acts such as The Miracles, Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, and The Spinners. According to James, he briefly got involved in pimp activity during this time, but stopped because he felt he wasn't qualified for it due to the harsh activity and the abuse of women there. Returning to California from Toronto in 1969, James got involved with hair stylist Jay Sebring, who agreed to invest in James' music.
In late 1968, James formed the rock band Salt and Pepper. James and S&P member Ed Roth later were included in Bruce Palmer's solo album The Cycle is Complete. The duo also recorded as part of the group Heaven and Earth in Toronto. Heaven and Earth eventually changed their name to Great White Cane and recorded an album for Los Angeles label, Lion Records, in 1972, though it was later shelved. James formed another band, Hot Lips, afterwards. In 1973, James signed with A&M Records, where his first single under the name Rick James, "My Mama", was released, becoming a club hit in Europe. In 1976, James returned to Buffalo, New York, and formed the Stone City Band and recorded the song "Get Up and Dance!", which was his second single to be released. In 1977, James and the Stone City Band signed a contract with Motown's Gordy Records imprint, where they began recording their first album in New York City.
In April 1978, James released his debut solo album, Come Get It!, which included the Stone City Band. The album launched the top 20 hit, "You and I", which became his first number-one R&B hit. The album also included the hit single, "Mary Jane". It eventually sold two million copies, launching James' musical career to stardom, and helping out Motown Records at a time when label fortunes had dwindled. In early 1979, James' second album, Bustin' Out of L Seven, followed the previous album's success, eventually selling a million copies. A third album, Fire It Up, was released in late 1979 going gold. Around that same period, James launched his first headlining tour, the Fire It Up Tour, and agreed to invite the then-upcoming artist, Prince, as well as singer Teena Marie, as his opening act. James had produced Marie's successful Motown debut album, Wild and Peaceful and was featured on the hit duet, "I'm a Sucker (For Your Love)". James was credited with naming Marie, "Lady Tee", on the song, a nickname that stuck with Marie for the rest of her career. The Fire It Up tour led to James developing a bitter rivalry with Prince, after he accused the musician for ripping off his act.
Following the end of the tour in 1980, James released the ballads-heavy Garden of Love, which became his fourth gold record. In 1981, James recorded his best-selling album to date, Street Songs, which like his previous four albums, was a concept album. Street Songs featured a fusion mix of different genres, including rock and new wave, as well as James' brand of crossover funk, enabling James' own style of "punk funk". The album featured hit singles such as "Ghetto Life", the Teena Marie duet "Fire and Desire", "Give It to Me Baby", and his biggest crossover hit to date, "Super Freak", which peaked at number sixteen on the Billboard Hot 100, and sold over a million copies. Street Songs peaked at number one R&B and number three pop, and sold over three million copies alone in the United States. Following up that success, James released two more gold albums, 1982's Throwin' Down and 1983's Cold Blooded.
During this period, envious of Prince's success as producer of other acts including The Time and Vanity 6, James launched the acts Process and the Doo-Rags, and the Mary Jane Girls, featuring his former background singer Joanne "JoJo" McDuffie as the lead vocalist and background performer, finding success with the latter group, due to the hits, "All Night Long", "Candy Man", and "In My House". In 1982, James produced the Temptations' Top Ten R&B hit, "Standing On The Top". In 1983, James recorded the hit duet, "Ebony Eyes", with singer Smokey Robinson. In 1985, James produced another hit for entertainer Eddie Murphy with the song "Party All The Time". That same year he appeared on an episode of The A-Team with Isaac Hayes. After the release of his ninth solo album, The Flag, in 1986, James signed with Warner Bros. Records, which released the album Wonderful in 1988, featuring the hit, "Loosey's Rap".
James' controversial and provocative image became troublesome sometimes. During his heyday, James had presented his songs to the then-fledging music video channel, MTV, only to be turned down because James' music didn't fit the network's rock playlist. James accused the network of racism. When MTV and BET both avoided playing the video for "Loosey's Rap" because of its graphic sexual content, James considered the networks hypocritical in light of them still playing provocative videos by Madonna and Cher.
In 1989, James' eleventh album, Kickin', was released only in the UK. By 1990, he had lost his deal with Warner Bros. and James began struggling with personal and legal troubles. That year MC Hammer released his hit signature song, "U Can't Touch This", which sampled the prominent opening riff from "Super Freak". James and his co-writer on "Super Freak", Alonzo Miller, successfully sued Hammer for shared songwriting credit and all three consequently received the 1990 Grammy Award for Best R&B Song. In 1997, James released Urban Rapsody, his first album since his release from prison on assault charges, and he toured to promote the album. That same year, he discussed his life and career in interviews for the VH1 musical documentary series, Behind the Music, which aired in early 1998. James' musical career slowed again after he suffered a minor stroke during a concert. In 1999, James accepted an offer by Eddie Murphy himself to appear in his film, Life
James had three children. With Syville Morgan, a former singer and songwriter, he had daughter Ty and son Rick, Jr. In 1989, James met 17-year-old partygoer Tanya Hijazi. The two began a romance in 1990. In 1993, the couple welcomed the arrival of their only child and James' youngest, Tazman. Following their releases from prison for assaulting Mary Sauger and Frances Alley, the couple married in 1996 and divorced in 2002. On the morning of August 6, 2004, James' caretaker found him dead in James' Los Angeles home at the Oakwood Toluca Hills apartment complex, just outside Burbank. He had died from pulmonary failure and cardiac failure, associated with his various health conditions of diabetes, a stroke, pacemaker, and heart attack. His autopsy found alprazolam, diazepam, bupropion, citalopram, hydrocodone, digoxin, chlorpheniramine, methamphetamine, and cocaine in his blood.
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Disappointed because Garden of Love wasn't as well received as it should have been, Rick James made a triumphant return to defiant, in-your-face funk with the triple-platinum Street Songs. This was not only his best-selling album ever, it was also his best period, and certainly the most exciting album released in 1981. The gloves came all the way off this time, and James is as loud and proud as ever on such arresting hits as "Super Freak," "Give It to Me Baby," and "Ghetto Life." Ballads aren't a high priority, but those he does offer (including his stunning duet with Teena Marie, "Fire and Desire") are first-rate. One song that's questionable (to say the least) is the inflammatory "Mr. Policeman," a commentary on police misconduct that condemns law enforcement in general instead of simply indicting those who abuse their authority. But then, the thing that makes this hot-headed diatribe extreme is what makes the album on the whole so arresting -- honest, gut-level emotion. James simply follows what's in his gut and lets it rip. Even the world's most casual funksters shouldn't be without this pearl of an album.
Rick James - Street Songs (flac 399mb)
01 Give It To Me Baby 4:08
02 Ghetto Life 4:21
03 Make Love To Me 4:48
04 Mr. Policeman 4:17
05 Super Freak 3:24
06 Fire And Desire 7:17
07 Call Me Up 3:53
08 Below The Funk (Pass The J) 2:35
The 12-Inch Mixes
09 Give It To Me Baby (12" Version) 5:42
10 Give It To Me Baby (Instrumental) 6:48
11 Super Freak (12" Version) 7:05
12 Super Freak (Instrumental) 3:33
Rick James - Street Songs (ogg 142mb)
This here amounts to the lone legitimate Rick James live set. A dynamite performance, it’s worthy of its own artwork and detachment from a catalog series. Technically taken from two Long Beach gigs that went down on July 30 and 31, 1981, as Street Songs was the number one R&B album in the U.S. -- while opener Teena Marie held up the second spot with It Must Be Magic -- the set is rather evenly spread between Street Songs and each of James’ earlier albums. James, backed by his Stone City Band, Punk Funk Horns, and Mary Jane Band, proficiently delivers everything (even “Mary Jane”) with a high level of energy. There’s plenty of stage-crowd interaction, with James acknowledging the Atlanta child murders, the killing of anti-racism activists in Greensboro, NC, and the death of Bob Marley, all recent events, yet without bringing down the party. A middle stretch features Teena Marie performing “I’m a Sucker for Love” (albeit with Levi Ruffin, Jr. taking James’ place) and “Square Biz” (which had just entered the R&B chart’s Top Ten). Of course, the remastered Street Songs itself, released in 2002 with the 12” mixes of “Give It to Me Baby” and “Super Freak,” is absolutely essential, but this release -- for any Rick James freak -- is pretty close to it.
Rick James - Live In Long Beach, CA, July 1981 (flac 554mb)
01 Introduction 1:46
02 Ghetto Life 4:21
03 Big Time 7:08
04 Come Into My Life 4:14
05 I'm A Sucker For Love 8:28
06 Square Biz 7:01
07 Fire It Up 3:35
08 Love Gun 5:42
09 Do You Want Some Funk (Interlude) 2:22
10 Mary Jane 10:39
11 Super Freak 4:21
12 You And I 11:48
13 Give It To Me Baby 6:05
Rick James - Live In Long Beach, CA, July 1981 (ogg 182mb)
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Rick James fans generally agree that 1981's Street Songs is his finest album -- in fact, Street Songs is essential listening for anyone with even a casual interest in hardcore funk. Unfortunately, James tried to recycle the album's formula on many of his subsequent albums, and by the mid-'80s, he had become a very predictable and redundant caricature of himself. But in 1982, James was still exciting. That year's Throwin' Down, the album that followed Street Songs, falls short of essential but is still rewarding. Many of the songs are excellent, including the cynical "Money Talks" and the major hits "Standing on the Top" (which features the Temptations) and "Dance Wit' Me." Not surprisingly, hardcore funk dominates the record, although Throwin' Down contains a few pleasing soul ballads as well. "Happy," a duet with Teena Marie, and "Teardrops" point to the fact that James can be a very expressive ballad singer even though he is best known for his up-tempo material. This album does sound like recycled Street Songs at times, but in 1982, James had yet to run the formula into the ground. All things considered, Throwin' Down was an enjoyable, if imperfect and slightly uneven, addition to the funkster's catalog.
Rick James - Throwin' Down (flac 230mb)
01 Dance Wit' Me 7:16
02 Money Talks 4:50
03 Teardrops 4:49
04 Throwdown 3:17
05 Standing On The Top 3:51
06 Hard To Get 4:07
07 Happy 5:29
08 69 Times 4:11
09 My Love 2:53
Rick James - Throwin' Down (ogg 87mb)
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By the mid-'80s, Rick James' funk had become a very tired cliché. Hits like 1984's "17" found an artist who had been so exciting only a few years earlier sounding increasingly formulaic and predictable. But he got out of his artistic rut in a major way with the excellent Glow. In interviews, James had expressed a desire to record an all-out rock album, and while Glow doesn't fit that description, he does incorporate rock and pop elements with splendid results on everything from the new wave-ish "Can't Stop" to the sweaty "Rock & Roll Control." But make no mistake: this is an R&B album first and foremost, and seductive numbers like "Moonchild" and the title song would be worthy of Kashif or Luther Vandross. Regrettably, James' risk-taking didn't pay off, and Glow was far from a major hit. Next to Garden of Love, Glow may be the most underrated album of Rick James' career.
Rick James - Glow (flac 292mb)
01 Can't Stop 6:08
02 Spend The Night With Me 4:11
03 Melody Make Me Dance 5:12
04 Somebody (The Girl's Got) 5:11
05 Glow 5:40
06 Moon Child 4:22
07 Sha La La La La (Come Back Home) 5:23
08 Rock And Roll Control 4:43
09 Glow (Reprise) 1:39
Rick James - Glow (ogg 110mb)
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After an eight-year stay at Motown, Rick James moved to Reprise/Warner Bros. with 1988's Wonderful. By that time, the funkster wasn't nearly as popular as he had been in the late '70s and early '80s, and he hoped to make a major comeback with this album. Reprise was delighted when the single "Loosey's Rap" (which features rapper Roxanne Shanté) went to number one on Billboard's R&B singles chart, but Wonderful didn't contain any other major hits -- and it isn't hard to understand why. This is a very uneven effort that sometimes misses the mark, although it has its moments. The singer tries different things, sometimes incorporating pop/rock, synth funk, and hip-hop elements. However, only a few of the songs are memorable -- most notably, the above-mentioned "Loosey's Rap," the Cameo-minded "So Tight," and the dramatic ballad "I Believe in U." Wonderful (which was James' only album for Reprise) was an improvement over 1986's The Flag. Hardly essential, Wonderful is mainly recommended to completists.
Rick James - Wonderful (flac 327mb)
01 Wonderful 4:19
02 Judy 4:58
03 Loosey's Rap 3:54
04 So Tight 4:28
05 Sexual Luv Affair 5:13
06 Love's Fire 4:43
07 I Believe In U 5:53
08 In The Girls' Room 4:41
09 Hypnotize 4:19
10 Sherry Baby 4:43
11 Hot Summer Nights 5:10
Rick James - Wonderful (ogg 123mb)
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