Rick James

Born Feb 1, 1948

Rick James was an American singer, songwriter, musician and record producer, best known for being the major popularizer of funk music in the late 1970s and early 1980s thanks to million-selling hits such as "You and I", "Give It to Me Baby" (1981) and "Super Freak" (1981), the latter song crossing him over to pop audiences and selling over three million copies, later contributing to the success of rapper MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" (1990), which James sued to be credited for.… Read More

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News + Updates

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Learn about the memorable moments in the evolution of Rick James.


1948 Birth James Ambrose Johnson, Jr. was born on February 1, 1948, in Buffalo, New York, to Mabel (née Sims) and James Ambrose Johnson, Sr. He was one of eight children. … Read More


1965 17 Years Old In 1965, he fled for Toronto, where he made friendships with then-local musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. … Read More


1968 20 Years Old 1 More Event
…  James returned to Motown as a songwriter in 1968, under the assumed name "Rickie Matthews", and worked with acts such as The Miracles, Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, and The Spinners. … Read More
1969 - 1973 2 More Events
1976 28 Years Old In 1976, James returned to Buffalo, New York, and formed the Stone City Band and recorded the song "Get Up and Dance!", which was his second single to be released.
1977 29 Years Old 1 More Event
In 1977, he signed with the Gordy Records imprint of Motown as a recording artist, releasing his debut, Come Get It!, in April 1978. … Read More


1978 - 1979 2 More Events
1980 32 Years Old Following the end of the tour in 1980, James released the ballads-heavy Garden of Love, which became his fourth gold record.
1981 33 Years Old In 1981, James recorded his best-selling album to date, Street Songs, which like his previous four albums, was a concept album. … Read More
1982 34 Years Old 1 More Event
Following up that success, James released two more gold albums, 1982's Throwin' Down and 1983's Cold Blooded. … Read More
1983 35 Years Old 1 More Event
In 1983, James recorded the hit duet, "Ebony Eyes", with singer Smokey Robinson.
1985 37 Years Old In 1985, James produced another hit for entertainer Eddie Murphy with the song "Party All The Time". … Read More
1986 38 Years Old After the release of his ninth solo album, The Flag, in 1986, James signed with Warner Bros. … Read More


1989 41 Years Old In 1989, James' eleventh album, Kickin', was released only in the UK.
1990 42 Years Old 1 More Event
By 1990, he had lost his deal with Warner Bros. and James began struggling with personal and legal troubles. … Read More
1991 43 Years Old After being credited as writer of the song, James became the 1991 recipient of a Best R&B Song Grammy for composing the song. … Read More
In 1993, the couple welcomed the arrival of their only child and James' youngest, Tazman. Following their releases from prison for assaulting Mary Sauger and Frances Alley, the couple married in 1996 and divorced in 2002. … Read More
1996 48 Years Old He was released from prison in 1996.


1998 50 Years Old 1 More Event
…  Murphy would later recall on Chappelle's Show his sometimes strained relationship with James, which helped to revive James' name in the public eye after years of seclusion, following his mild stroke in 1998.
James received new notoriety in 2004, when he appeared (as himself) in an episode of Chappelle's Show, in a Charlie Murphy "True Hollywood Stories" segment that satirized James' past wild lifestyle. … Read More
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