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Ray Parker Jr. Biography


Home > Music > P > Parker Jr., Ray > Biography


Birth Name: Ray Erskine Parker, Jr.
Born: 1954/05/01
Years Active: 1973–present
Genres: R&B, Jazz Fusion, Funk


Ray Erskine Parker, Jr. (born May 1, 1954), is an American guitarist, songwriter, producer and recording artist.

Parker gained his reputation during the late 1960s as a member of the house band at the legendary 20 Grand nightclub. This Detroit hot-spot often featured Tamla/Motown acts, one of which The Spinners, was so impressed with the young guitarist's skills that they added him to their touring group. Parker was also employed as a teenaged studio musician for the emergent Holland-Dozi “Want Ads,” a 1971 #1 single for Honey Cone.

In 1973 he was a sideman in Barry White's The Love Unlimited Orchestra, before creating the R&B group Raydio in 1977, with Vincent Bohnam, Jerry Knight and Arnell Carmichael. Parker appeared briefly in the 1974 film “Uptown Saturday Night” as a guitar player. Parker also wrote songs and did session work for The Carpenters, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Deniece Williams, Jean-Luc Ponty, Leon Haywood, Temptations, The Spinners, Boz Scaggs, David Foster, Rhythm Heritage, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Honey Cone, Herbie Hancock, Tina Turner and Diana Ross.

Raydio scored their first big hit, “Jack and Jill,” from their self-titled album in 1978 on Arista Records. The song reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart, earning a million-selling gold single in the process.

Their successful follow-up hit, “You Can't Change That” was released in 1979, from the “Rock On” album. The song was another Top 10 hit, peaking at #9 on the Billboard chart during the summer and also selling one million copies. In 1980, the group became known as Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio, and the group released two more albums, “Two Places at the Same Time” in 1980 and “A Woman Needs Love” in 1981.

During the 1980s Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio had two Top 40 hits in “Two Places at the Same Time” at #30 in 1980 and “That Old Song” at #21 in 1981 and their last and biggest hit “A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do),” released in 1981, which went to # 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and # 1 on the R&B chart in 1981.

Raydio broke up in 1981, while Parker continued with his solo career, scoring six Top 40 hits, including the #4 hit single “The Other Woman” in 1982 and the #1 hit “Ghostbusters” in 1984. The theme song to the film of the same name, “Ghostbusters” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song.

Parker was later the defendant in a copyright infringement lawsuit which claimed “Ghostbusters” was too similar in musical structure to “I Want a New Drug,” written and performed by Huey Lewis and the News (more specifically, the guitar riff which runs through the song). “I Want a New Drug” was a U.S. top-ten hit earlier the same year. The two parties settled out of court. Details of the settlement (specifically, that Parker paid Lewis a settlement) were confidential until 2001, when Lewis commented on the payment in an episode of VH1's “Behind the Music.” Parker subsequently sued Lewis for breaching confidentiality.

In 1984, Parker appeared in “Pryor's Place,” a short-lived live-action comedy series hosted by Richard Pryor, presumably sharing his own childhood experiences with children and teens. Parker appeared in the opening title sequence of each show, singing the program's theme song.

Parker also wrote and produced hits for New Edition (“Mr. Telephone Man”), Randy Hall, Cheryl Lynn (“Shake It Up Tonight”), Deniece Williams (“I Found Love”) and Diana Ross. He also performed guitar on several songs on La Toya Jackson's 1980 debut album. In 1989, he also wrote “Ghostbusters,” a rap performed by Run-D.M.C., for the movie “Ghostbusters 2.” In 2006, Parker returned and released a new album “I'm Free.”