Rick James was an American singer, songwriter, musician and record producer who rose to fame in the 1970s as an artist on the famous Motown Records. He іѕ bеѕt rесоgnіzеd fоr his album Ѕtrееt Ѕоngѕ, whісh wаѕ еѕѕеntіаllу a соnсерt аlbum and included his career-best songs Give It to Me Baby, Super Freak. At the time of his death, Rick James net worth was around $35 million according to the court documents released soon after.
Rick James has been a very popular singer throughout his life and remains famous even after his death, but do you know everything about him? Have you ever wondered about his personal life or how much wealth he accumulated? Do you know how tall he was or who all are there in his family? Fortunately we have got you covered with this short biography- his personal and professional life, his net worth and more. So lets get started!
|Celebrated Name||Rick James|
|Real Name||James Ambrose Johnson Jr.|
|Date of Birth||February 1, 1948|
|Date of Death||August 6, 2004|
|Age at the Time of Death||56 years old|
|Birth Place||Buffalo, New York, United States|
|Height||5 feet 9 inches, 1.81 m|
|Eye Color||Dark Brown|
|Hair Color||Dark Brown|
|Spouse||Tanya Hijazi (m. 1996; div. 2002)|
|Profession||Singer, Songwriter, Arranger, Record producer, Dancer|
|Net Worth||$35 million|
James Ambrose Johnson Jr. was born on February 1, 1948 to Mabel and James Ambrose Johnson Sr. in Buffalo, New York. His father was an autoworker who abandoned them when James was only 10 years old. He was raised alongside his seven siblings by his mother who was a dancer and later worked as a numbers-runner. As a young boy James used to accompany his mother to the bars where she used to work. It is there that he was exposed to music and the arts and began playing music at an early age. James attended Orchard Park High School and Bennett High School but eventually dropped out.
He was introduced to drugs in his initial years and busted for committing burglary as a teenager. Because of his stints in jail a few times, James enlisted himself in the United States Navy at age 15, lying to say he was older, in order to avoid being drafted. During this time, he started playing drums in local jazz groups in New York City. Because he missed his required Navy Reserves sessions twice, he was ordered to go to Vietnam. James then fled to Toronto in 1964.
Rick James fled to Toronto in 1964, where he met a man name Levon Helm who played in Ronnie Hawkins’ backing band. The two became friends and this relationship helped James become involved in the Toronto music scene. At the time, he started using the name Ricky James Matthews in order to avoid being detected by the U.S. military authorities. The same year James formed the Mynah Birds, a soul and rock band, which briefly recorded with the Canadian division of Columbia Records, releasing a single, “Mynah Bird Hop”. The band even travelled to Detroit to record with Motown Records, where James met some of his musical heroes – Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. It was Wonder who advised James to shorten his name to Rick James.
In 1966, Motown executives learned of James’s fugitive status with the Navy and told him they would not release more of his music until he straightened out his legal troubles. He ultimately turned himself in to the FBI and served five months of hard labor for his unauthorized absence at the Portsmouth Naval Prison. He was released in 1967 following which he returned to Toronto.
In 1968, he began writing and producing songs at Motown for acts like The Spinners and The Miracles. Sometime later he relocated to Los Angeles where he met a number of high profile musicians, like Stephen Stills, Jim Morrison, and Salt’N’Pepper. In the following year James and Salt’N’Pepper member Ed Roth participated in the recording of Bruce Palmer’s solo album The Cycle Is Complete. Afterwards, James formed another band titled Hot Lips. He also briefly worked with the Toronto blues band McKenna Mendelson Mainline. During this time a co-wrote the song You Make the Magic with Mainline guitarist ike McKenna. The song was later released by The Chambers Brothers.
James signed with A&M Records in 1973 and his debut single My Mama was released under the name Rick James in 1974. He then formed the Stone City Band in 1976. His debut solo album Come Get It! was released in 1978 which included the hit tracks ‘You & I‘ and ‘Mary Jane‘ which sold two million copies, launching James’s musical career to stardom аѕ wеll аѕ аѕѕіѕtіng Моtоwn Rесоrdѕ whеn lаbеl аffluеnсе hаd dесlіnеd.
Durіng еаrlу 1979, hіѕ ѕесоnd аlbum tіtlеd Вuѕtіn’ Оut оf L Ѕеvеn, trаіlеd thе рrіоr аlbum’ѕ success, ultіmаtеlу selling over а mіllіоn соріеѕ. Аlѕо, his thіrd аlbum tіtlеd Fіrе Іt Uр was released durіng lаtе 1979, bесоmіng gоld. During this time he also launched the Fire It Up Tour and welcomed upcoming artists Prince and Teena Marie as the opening act. The tour ended with James developing a bitter rivalry with Prince after he accused him of ripping off his act.
Аftеr thе соnсluѕіоn оf the tour durіng thе уеаr 1980, hе released his forth studio album, the bаllаdѕ-hеаvу Gаrdеn оf Lоvе, аnd іt also became gоld rесоrd. In 1981, he rесоrdеd hіѕ bеѕt-ѕеllіng аlbum tо dаtе tіtlеd Ѕtrееt Ѕоngѕ, which wаѕ еѕѕеntіаllу а соnсерt аlbum like his рrесеdіng fоur аlbumѕ. The album featured hit singles such as “Ghetto Life”, a duet with Teena Marie titled “Fire and Desire”, “Give It to Me Baby.’ Most importantly the album included his biggest crossover hit to date, “Super Freak”, which sold over 1 million copies and peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. Street Songs peaked at number one R&B and number three pop, and sold over 3 million copies in the United States alone. Following the success of Street Songs, James released two more gold albums Throwin’ Down and Cold Blooded in 1982 and 1983 repectively.
During this period bеіng јеаlоuѕ оf Рrіnсе’ѕ ассоmрlіѕhmеnt as thе рrоduсеr оf bands lіkе Тhе Тіmе аnd Vаnіtу 6, hе іѕѕuеd асtѕ, nаmеlу Рrосеѕѕ аnd thе Dоо-Rаgѕ, аѕ wеll аѕ thе Маrу Јаnе Gіrlѕ. Іt hіghlіghtеd hіѕ fоrmеr bасkgrоund ѕіngеr nаmеd Јоаnnе “Јојо” МсDuffіе іn thе fоrm оf а lеаd vосаlіѕt аѕ wеll аѕ bасkgrоund muѕісіаn, gеttіng ѕuссеѕѕ bу thе lаttеr grоuр, bесаuѕе оf hіtѕ like “Саndу Маn,” “Аll Nіght Lоng,” аnd “Іn Му Ноuѕе.”
In 1983, he also recorded the hit duet, “Ebony Eyes”, with singer Smokey Robinson, as well as a ballad titled “Tell Me What You Want.” He produced another hit song “Party All the Time” for Eddie Murphy in the year 1985. james released his ninth solo album titled The Flag in 1986 and following which he signed with Warner Bros. Records which released the album Wonderful in 1988.
After the release of his 11th solo album titled Kickin’ James experienced a decline in his career in the 1990s when he was dealing with personal and legal troubles. His stardom faded for much of the decade but he reentered the public discourse after appearing on “Chappelle’s Show” in 2004. This gave his career a boost and he began performing again, giving his final performance at the BET Awards in June of 2004.
At the time of his death, James was working on an autobiography, The Confessions of Rick James: Memoirs of a Super Freak which was finally published in 2007 by Colossus Books. Later in 2014 David Ritz whom James had employed to work with him on the book, published his own, re-edited version, Glow: The Autobiography of Rick James saying that the previous version did not truly reflect how the musician wanted himself portrayed.
Personal Life & Relationships
James had a number of serious relationships throughout his lifetime. He had two children with singer/songwriter Syville Morgan a daughter named Tyenza and a son, Rick Jr.
He then started dating actress Linda Blair in 1982 after Linda apparently called James sexy in an interview. Soon after Blair became pregnant but opted to have an abortion, which James wrote about in his memoir. The couple ended their relationship in 1984.
James met socialite Tanya Hijazi in 1989 when she was just 17 years old. They started their courtship in 1990 and had a child, Tazman, together in 1993. They later got married in 1996 but their marriage didn’t last long and the two parted ways in 2002. James had also maintained a close professional and sometimes romantic relationship with Teena Marie, who he had begun collaborating with in 1979.
James also had many notable friendships, including both Eddie and Charlie Murphy. He was also friends with Debbie Allen, Smokey Robinson, and Marvin Gaye. Gaye even named James godfather to his daughter Nona.
On August 6, 2004, James was found dead in his Los Angeles home by his caretaker. He was 56 years old at thetime of his death. His publicist Sujata Murthy announced that he died a natural death. While drugs were found in his system, the autopsy found that none were at levels high enough to be life-threatening in and out themselves. He is said to have died from pulmonary heart failure, due to complications with some of his pre-existing conditions. A public viewing was held for fans and then a private service was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park – Hollywood Hills. Afterwards James was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetary in Buffalo, New York.
Awards & Accolades
Rick James was a highly talented musician and his skills didn’t go unrecongnized. In 1982 he won the American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Album for his album Street Songs. He was also Inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame in the year 1996. Additionally during his career James was nominated for three Grammy Awards. In 1982 he was nominated for Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male for Super Freak and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male for Street Songs. In 1991 he won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Song for as the co-writer of MC Hammer’s song U Can’t Touch This alongside Alonzo Miller.
Rick James Net Worth
At the time of his death Rick James net worth was around $35 million according to the court documents released soon after. He built his fortune from being a successful singer, songwriter, musician and record producer. His musical career had modest beginning, in which he used to sing on the streets for getting tips. However, he eventually signed one record deal with Columbia Records which is a proof of his exceptional talent as a singer and musician.