Related Artists


Mary Jane Girls

The Moments




The Gap Band


The Emotions

Force M.D.'s

Rick James Biography

Home > Music > J > James, Rick > Biography

Birth Name: James Ambrose Johnson, Jr.
Born: 1948/02/01
Birth Place: Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Died: 2004/08/06
Years Active: 1964 – 2004
Genres: R&B, Soul, Funk

James Ambrose Johnson, Jr. (February 1, 1948 – August 6, 2004), better known under his stage name Rick James, was an American singer, songwriter, musician and record producer.

James was a popular performer in the late 1970s and 1980s, scoring four #1 hits on the U.S. R&B charts performing in the genres of funk and R&B. Among his well known songs are "Super Freak" and "You and I". In addition to his music, James gained notoriety for his wild lifestyle, which led to widely publicized legal problems.

Prior to his death in August 2004, James gained notoriety after comedian Dave Chappelle parodied the singer's 1980s drug-infused heyday with a series of stories told by acquaintance Charlie Murphy. These popularized the catch phrase "I'm Rick James, bitch". The singer was in the middle of recording what would be his final album, "Deeper Still," when he died.

Rick's breakthrough was "You and I", an eight-minute single from his 1978 debut album “Come Get It!.” The album also featured his ode to marijuana, "Mary Jane". In 1981 he recorded “Street Songs,” which included James's signature song "Super Freak". The song featured guest vocals by The Temptations, and was sampled for MC Hammer's 1990 Grammy Award-winning song "U Can't Touch This", as well as Jay-Z's "Kingdom Come", released in 2006.

Other hits from “Street Songs” included "Give It to Me Baby", "Fire and Desire" with protégé Teena Marie, and "Ghetto Life". The stream of hits continued into the mid-1980s with "Teardrops", "Cold Blooded", "17", "You Turn Me On", "Can't Stop", "P.I.M.P. the S.I.M.P." (with Grandmaster Flash), and "Glow". His last R&B hit was "Loosey's Rap" in 1989, featuring a rap by Roxanne Shante. During this period, he also helped launch the Mary Jane Girls, and helped produce and write Eddie Murphy's one hit, "Party All the Time".

While he is best known for his up tempo songs in pop circles, the R&B world also remembers him as one of the premier soul balladeers in the late seventies and early eighties. He recorded an early eighties hit with Motown legend Smokey Robinson entitled "Ebony Eyes" that captures his voice almost as well as "Fire and Desire".

He also recorded the ballad, "Tell Me What You Want," for the “Cold Blooded” album, which was a duet with Billy Dee Williams.