Rick James Part Two
Now it’s here, Rick James Part Two, and I spend a lot of time, searching the truth about someone who everybody likes, so that’s why I’m doing Part Three.
In April 1978, James 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 James‘s musical career to stardom, and helping out Motown Records at a time when label fortunes had dwindled. In early 1979, James‘s 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, James 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. James had produced Marie‘s successful Motown debut album, Wild and Peacefuland was featured on the hit duet, “I‘m a Sucker (For Your Love)“. James 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 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, James released the ballads-heavy Garden of Love, which became his fourth gold record. In 1981, James 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 James‘s brand of crossover funk, enabling James‘s 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 3 million copies alone in the United States. Following up that success, James 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, James 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, James produced the Temptations‘ Top 10 R&B hit, “Standing On The Top“. In 1983, James recorded the hit duet, “Ebony Eyes“, with singer Smokey Robinson, as well as a beautiful ballad “Tell Me What You Want“ with an introduction by Billy Dee Williams. In 1985, James 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, James signed with Warner Bros. Records, which released the album Wonderful in 1988, featuring the hit, “Loosey‘s Rap“.
James‘s controversial and provocative image became trouble some sometimes. During his heyday, James had presented his songs to the then-fledgling music video channel, MTV, only to be turned down because James‘s music did not fit the network‘s rock playlist. James accused the network of racism. When MTV and BET both avoided playing the video for “Loosey‘s Rap“ because of its graphic sexual content, James considered the networks hypocritical in light of them still playing provocative videos by Madonna and Cher.
In 1989, James‘s 11th album, Kickin‘, was released only in the UK. By 1990, he had lost his deal with Warner Bros. and James began struggling with personal and legal troubles. That year MC Hammer released his hit signature song, “U Can’t TouchThis“, which sampled the prominent opening riff from “Super Freak“. James 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, James 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. James‘s musical career slowed again after he suffered a minor stroke during a concert. In 1999, James accepted an offer by Eddie Murphy to appear in the comedy-drama Life.
Relationships And Children
James had two children with Syville Morgan, a former singer and songwriter. They had a daughter, Ty, and a son, Rick Jr. James dated actress Linda Blair from 1982 to 1984. They met after James read an interview where Blair called him sexy. He contacted her and spent time getting to know the actress during a short stint living at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. His hit song “Cold Blooded“ was about his relationship with Blair. “It was about how Linda could freeze my blood,“ he wrote in his autobiography.
In 1989, James met 17-year-old party-goer Tanya Hijazi. The two began a romance in 1990. In 1993, the couple welcomed the arrival of their only child and James‘s youngest, Tazman. Following their respective releases from prison for assaulting Mary Sauger and Frances Alley, the couple married in 1996 and divorced in 2002.
James was very close with Teena Marie, whom he met and began collaborating with in 1979. Teena Marie stated they were romantically involved for 3 months and engaged“for two weeks“. Their professional partnership lasted into 2004, when Marie released her comeback album, La Doña, which included her and James‘s duet “I Got You“. When James died, Teena Marie said she struggled to come to terms with his death.