Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr)
Rick James died aged fifty-six on 6th August 2004 from pulmonary failure and cardiac failure at home in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York, U.S.A.
His autopsy found alprazolam, diazepam, bupropion, citalopram, hydrocodone, digoxin, chlorpheniramine, methamphetamine, and cocaine in his blood but the coroner stated that none of the drugs were found to be at levels that were life-threatening in and of themselves.
Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) was survived by various partners and their children; sons, Rick Jr and daughters Ty and Tazman.
Rick James, was born James Ambrose Johnson Jr on 1st of February 1948, in Buffalo, New York. He was one of eight children and his father, an autoworker, left the family when he was ten years old. Rick James' mother would take him on her collecting route, and it was in bars where she worked that he saw performers including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Etta Rick James perform. Rick claimed later, in the autobiography Glow, that he lost his virginity at age nine or ten to a forteen-year-old local girl, claiming his "kinky nature came in early". He eventually attended Orchard Park High School and Bennett High School prior to dropping out. Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) was introduced to drugs at an early age and was busted for burglary as a young teen. He also became a drummer for local jazz groups in New York City and due to him missing his twice-monthly Reserve sessions at the USS Enterprise, he found himself ordered to Vietnam.
In 1965, he fled to Toronto, where he made friends with then-local musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. To avoid being caught by military authorities, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) went under the assumed name, "Ricky Matthews". That same year, he 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. Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) and Palmer recruited 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 Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) met his musical heroes, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. After meeting Wonder and telling him his name, Wonder felt the name "Ricky James " was "too long", and instead told him to shorten it to " Rick James ".
In 1966, a financial dispute in Toronto between Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) and the Mynah Birds' handler, Morley Shelman led to Motown's learning of Rick's fugitive status with the Navy. Hoping to preempt any scrutiny by the Feds, Motown execs told Rick they would not be releasing any more of his material and "convinced" him to come back and work with them after straightening out his legal issues. Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) surrendered himself to the FBI, and, in May 1966, was sentenced by the Navy to five months' hard labor for "Unauthorized Absence". He was not yet 19 years old. Rick actually escaped from the Brooklyn Naval Brig after only six weeks' confinement, but after six months on the lam surrendered himself a second time and, with help from his mother, found legal assistance from his cousin, Congressman Louis Stokes and an attorney, former Marine Captain John Bracken, who pled Rick James second court-martial down from a potential five years' hard labor to five months. After his release from Portsmouth Naval Prison in August, 1967, Rick James returned to Toronto and endured another detention, initially derailing resumption of his career with Mynah Bird bandmate Neil Merryweather, with whom he would later collaborate, first at Motown and then in Los Angeles.
In 1968, again working under the pseudonym, Ricky Matthews, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) produced and wrote songs at Motown for acts such as The Miracles, Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers, and The Spinners. It was during this third stint at Motown that Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) met musician Greg Reeves, who, hoping to find a better situation than the few dollars he was earning as a session bassist for Berry Gordy, joined Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr), looking to "hitch a lift from Neil Young's rising star", and relocating to Los Angeles during the summer of 1969.
Once in California, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) initially worked as a duo with Greg Reeves, but soon after he introduced Reeves to Neil Young, it was Reeves, not Rick James, who was hired as bassist for the newly formed rock supergroup, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Around this time Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) formed several versions of the rock band Salt'N'Pepper and got involved with hair stylist Jay Sebring, who agreed to invest in Rick James' music. Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) and Salt'N'Pepper 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 of the same name for Los Angeles label, Lion Records, in 1972 & it was released that year. Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) formed another band, Hot Lips, afterwards. In 1973, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) 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, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) 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, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) 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, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) 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 Rick James Rick James' musical career to stardom, and helping out Motown Records at a time when label fortunes had dwindled. In early 1979, Rick James Rick 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, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) 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. Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) 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)". Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) 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 Rick James developing a bitter rivalry with Prince, after he accused the musician of ripping off his act.
Following the end of the tour in 1980, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) released the ballads-heavy Garden of Love, which became his fourth gold record. In 1981, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) 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 Rick's brand of crossover funk, enabling Rick 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 16 on the Billboard Hot 100, and sold over 1 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, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) 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, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) 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, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) produced the Temptations' Top ten R&B hit, "Standing On The Top". In 1983, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) recorded the hit duet, "Ebony Eyes", with singer Smokey Robinson. In 1985, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) 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, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) signed with Warner Bros. Records, which released the album Wonderful in 1988, featuring the hit, "Loosey's Rap".
Rick James' controversial and provocative image became troublesome sometimes. During his heyday, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) had presented his songs to the then-fledgling music video channel, MTV, only to be turned down because his music did not fit the network's rock playlist. Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) accused the network of racism. When MTV and BET both avoided playing the video for "Loosey's Rap" because of its graphic sexual content, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) considered the networks hypocritical in light of them still playing provocative videos by Madonna and Cher.
In 1989, Rick James Rick James' 11th album, Kickin', was released only in the UK. By 1990, he had lost his deal with Warner Bros. and Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) 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". Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) 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, Rick James (James Ambrose Johnson Jr) 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. Rick James' musical career slowed again after he suffered a minor stroke during a concert.