Rick James Part Three
This is Rick James Part Three, but it’s not the final, I’ll be back with more soon.
James became close friends with Eddie Murphy after the two met in 1981. Following his exit from the United States Navy in 1984, Murphy‘s older brother Charlie Murphy, whose first post-Navy job was working as security for his famous brother, began spending time with James, and he bonded with the singer. Murphy would later recall on Chappelle‘s Show his sometimes strained relationship with James, which helped to revive James‘s name in the public eye after years of seclusion, following his mild stroke in 1998. James also appeared in the episode recounting his memory of the experiences shared with Murphy, such as starting impromptu fights with him and staining Murphy‘s couch with mud.
James was also a friend of fellow Motown act performers Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye, singers James idolized as a teenager. Additionally, he befriended Gaye‘s second wife, Janis, and he was godfather of Gaye‘s daughter Nona. James‘s relationship with Robinson began shortly after James signed with Motown and, in 1983, the duo recorded the hit “Ebony Eyes“.
James also idolized former Temptations lead singer David Ruffin and Ruffin‘s self-proclaimed cousin, bass vocalist Melvin Franklin, and grabbed at the chance to produce the hit “Standing on the Top“ for them in 1982. Before that, the then-current lineup of the group recorded background vocals on two James-associated projects— James‘s Street Songs (singing “Ghetto Life“ and “Super Freak“) and Teena Marie‘s It Must Be Magic (singing on the title track). In “Super Freak“, “It Must Be Magic“, and “Standing On The Top“, James famously shouted out,“Temptations SING!“
Drug Abuse And Health Problems
James‘s drug abuse began in his teens, first with marijuana and heroin. James began using cocaine in the late 1960s. His cocaine use became an addiction by the 1980s, and he began freebasing by the end of the decade. James smoked crack cocaine in his Beverly Hills mansion and often put aluminum foil on the windows to block onlookers.
His drug use led to major health problems. In April 1984, he was hospitalized after being found unconscious in the middle of his house by a friend. James claimed that he quit cocaine when he entered prison, although his autopsy showed there was a small amount of the drug in his bloodstream at the time of his death.
Kidnapping And Assault Convictions
By the beginning of the 1990s, James‘s drug use was public knowledge. He was mainly addicted to cocaine and later admitted to spending about $7,000 per week on drugs for five years straight. In 1991, he and future wife Tanya Hijazi were accused of holding 24-year-old Frances Alley hostage for up to six days (although accounts vary on how long she was actually held), tying her up, forcing her to perform sexual acts, and burning her legs and abdomen with the hot end of a crack cocaine pipe during a week-long cocaine binge. In 1993, while out on bail for that incident, James, under the influence of cocaine, assaulted music executive Mary Sauger at the St. James Club and Hotel in West Hollywood.Sauger claims she met James and Hijazi for a business meeting, but said the two then kidnapped and beat her over a 20-hour period.
James was found guilty of both offenses but was cleared of a torture charge in the crack pipe incident that could have put him in prison for the rest of his life. He served two years in Folsom Prison and lost a civil suit to Sauger, who was awarded $2 million. He was released from prison in 1996. In 1998, James was accused of sexually assaulting a 26-year-old woman, though charges were later dropped.
James Final Years
In early 2004, James participated in a comedy sketch on Chappelle‘s Show, in asegment called “Charlie Murphy‘s True Hollywood Stories“. James and Murphyrecounted humorous stories of their experiences together during the early 1980s.During the sketch, James‘s character, played by Dave Chappelle, utters the nowfamous catchphrase, “I‘m Rick James, bitch!“ The sketches were punctuated byJames, explaining his past behavior with the phrase, “cocaine is a hell of adrug!“
Autobiography And Final Music Projects
At the time of his death, James was working on an autobiography, The Confessions of Rick James: Memoirs of a Super Freak, as well as a new album. The book was finally published toward the end of 2007 by Colossus Books and features a picture of his tombstone.
Noted music journalist/biographer David Ritz, who had been employed by James to work on the book with him, later said that this version did not truly reflect how the musician wanted it published. In 2014, Ritz published his own, re-edited version, Glow: The Autobiography of Rick James.
He was also supporting Teena Marie‘s tour of her album La Doña and toured with her in May 2004, playing with her at the KBLX Stone Soul Picnic, Pioneer Amphitheatre, Hayward, California.
On the morning of August 6, 2004, James‘s caretaker found him dead in James‘s 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. However, the coroner stated that “none of the drugs or drug combinations were found to be at levels that were life-threatening in and of themselves“.
James was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York.
James‘s entire Motown Records back catalogue was released in 2014 on iTunes for the first time in digitally remastered form. This marks the first time many of his albums have been widely available since their initial releases. Physical copies of James‘s albums, namely Fire It Up, Garden of Love and The Flag, have become rare and highly sought-after by fans.
• Come Get It! with The Stone City Band (1978 )
• Bustin‘ Out of L Seven (1979 )
• Fire It Up (1979 )
• Garden of Love (1980 )
• Street Songs (1981 )
• Throwin‘ Down (1982 )
• Cold Blooded (1983 )
• Glow (1985 )
• The Flag (1986 )
• Wonderful (1988 )
• Kickin‘ (1989 )
• Urban Rapsody (1997 )
• Deeper Still (2007 )