Grammy Award Winner Rick James Dies

Published: 2004-08-09
Over the years, western New York has produced a plethora of musicians. On Friday August 6 Buffalo lost one of its native sons – the man who brought us "Super Freak" and "Give it to Me Baby" – Grammy Award winner Rick James. The man credited with creating punk fund died Friday in his sleep. James' family believes he died of heart failure but an autopsy was inconclusive as to the cause of death.

James was born James Johnson on February 1, 1948 in Buffalo, New York. The third of eight children, the Johnson family were raised strict Catholics. James Johnson had his first of many run-ins with the law after he joined the Navy at 15 and later went AWOL.

During his career as a musician Rick James had a number of hits and helped a number of other musicians get a start in the business. James' biggest album was "Street Songs" which stayed at the top of the charts for 54 weeks and sold over two million copies. The smash hit "Super Freak" was written as a goof. James never expected it to be such a big hit.

Rick James created a bad boy persona that he proceeded to maintain in an extravagant manner. This extravagance got James into trouble legally and medically. At one time James had a crack cocaine addiction that cost him 10 to 15 thousand dollars a week. James served two years in Folsom prison for assault charges that were related to his addiction.

After being released from prison James tried to make a comeback. He had a stroke and hip replacement in 1998 and had a pacemaker. At the time of his death, Rick James was working on a new album and an autobiography.

Rick James was 56.

Writer: Sherrill Fulghum



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