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Gone But Not Forgotten: Rick James

Rick James, 2/1/1948 - 8/6/2004
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    Rick James, 2/1/1948 - 8/6/2004
    In the late 70s, when the fortunes of Motown Records seemed to be flagging, Rick James came along and rescued the company, providing funky hits that updated the label's style and saw it through into the mid-80s. Pictured: James at his estate in his hometown in Buffalo, NY. Photo: WireImage
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    Actually, Rick James had been with Motown earlier, though nothing had come of it. As a military deserter in Toronto in the late 60s, he formed a band with Neil Young, the Mynah Birds. They were signed to Motown, though no record was ever released because James ended up serving time for going AWOL. James returned to the label in 1977. Photo: WireImage
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    Rick James released his debut album Come Get It! with the hits "You and I" and "Mary Jane" in 1978. He played most of the instruments on the album, with minimal involvement from his live backing group, The Stone City Band.
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    Rick James in concert with the Stone City Band in 1979. That year, Rick James took a young Prince on tour as his opening act. James' cordial relationship with Prince during the tour became strained after Prince, according to James, stole all the bits from his act to hype the audience. He got so fed up with this that he canceled the rest of the tour. Photo: WireImage
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    Rick James and Prince have been compared quite a bit. Both mentored a number of artists, including girl groups such as The Mary Jane Girls (Rick James) and Vanity 6/Appolonia 6 (Prince). Both were highly respected multi-instrumentalists, songwriters as well as producers. James and Prince were both known for their electric live shows, outrageous fashions, and hyper-sexual lyrics. Rick James was even rumored to have been considering a film career similar to Prince with Purple Rain.
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    Rick James pictured in a quiet moment at home. He was a noted hitmaker for Teena Marie, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, and Eddie Murphy. James was essential to launching Teena Marie's career at Motown. When they met during the late 70s Marie was a young artist barely out of her teens that Motown couldn't figure out how to market. The label had no idea what material or producer to pair her with. James saw potential, wanted to work with her, pulled her out of limbo, and helped her reach a larger audience through duets such as "Sucker for Your Love", which landed Teena Marie her first crucial spot on "Soul Train". Photo: WireImage
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    Rick James' follow up to Come Get It!, Bustin' Out of L Seven (1979) with "Bustin' Out on Funk"
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    Street Songs (1981) marked a no holds barred return to in your face funk as well as the dawn of Rick James' golden age. Hits included "Super Freak" and "Give It To Me Baby". Another notable track was another duet with close friend Teena Marie, "Fire and Desire". In an interview, Teena Marie said she had a fever at the time yet managed to record her vocals in one take. After the session, she was driven to a hospital.
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    Rick James' 1982 follow up to Street Songs, Throwin' Down with "Dance Wit Me", "Standing on the Top", and "69 Times"
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    Rick James in the recording studio with The Mary Jane Girls in 1983. The group's name was coined in the late 70s, when James hired them as background singers for his Stone City Band. Photo: WireImage
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    Fronted by James' main female backup singer Joanne "Jojo" McDuffie, the Mary Jane Girls' self-titled debut was released in 1983 with "Boys" and "Candy Man".
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    Mary Jane Girls' second, biggest and final album Only Four You (1985) with signature song "In My House". The Mary Jane Girls dissolved in 1987, then reunited in 1996.
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    Rick James wrote and produced Murphy's hit "Party All The Time". James began a close friendship with Murphy in 1981. Photo: WireImage
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    Rick James' appetite for partying was as legendary as his musical talent. What was once a humorous part of his dynamic, over the top persona turned horrific by the early 90s as he was simultaneously charged with the crack cocaine fueled torture of a groupie as well as the assault of a music executive. Photo: WireImage
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    Rick James at the San Fernando Valley Courthouse on August 20, 1993. James appeared in court to face charges of selling and transporting a controlled substance, and assault with a deadly weapon. Photo: WireImage
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    After completing his prison sentence, Rick James worked on rebuilding his career. He is pictured here at the Record Plant Studios guesting on rapper Bump J's CD, produced by Kanye West, in 2004. Photo: Getty Images
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    Rick James with Bump J and Kanye West in the studio. James was enjoying renewed interest in his career due to appearing in the hugely successful "Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Stories" sketches on "Chappelle's Show". Photo: Getty Images
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    In the sketches, he, along with Charlie Murphy, recounted humorous stories of their experiences together during the 80s. Rick James' character, played by Dave Chappelle, utters the now famous catchphrase, "I'm Rick James, bitch!" The skits were punctuated by James, as himself, explaining his past behavior with the phrase, "Cocaine is a hell of a drug!"
    Photo: "Chappelle's Show", YouTube
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    Rick James receives the Heritage Award at ASCAP's 17th Annual Rhythm & Soul Music Awards in 2004. Photo: Getty Images
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    Rick James at the 2004 BET Awards with longtime collaborator and friend Teena Marie. Reprising their duet "Fire & Desire" was their last performance together.
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    Photo: Getty Images
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    Shortly after his final appearance at the 2004 BET Awards, Rick James passed away from pulmonary and cardiac failure. Pictured here are his children at his funeral - Ty, Tazman and Rick Jr. Photo: WireImage
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    Teena Marie presents the in memoriam tribute to Rick James onstage at the 2005 BET Awards. Sadly, Teena Marie would pass away in 2011. Photo: Getty Images