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August 09, 2004

When Time Allows My Mind to Sleep

Rick James is dead.

In his day, Rick was the most revolutionary dude in music. I attended his concert in Long Beach when he was at his peak. 7th row Motown comp tickets. I have never seen before or since a huge crowd of blackfolk on their feet screaming for a white guitarist, but for the dude in Rick's band, it was done. There was no question. Rick James was the king of Funk & Roll.

The Stone City Band, broke us out of L 7, and Rick James, more than anyone short of George Clinton got under your skin and into your mind. He wore the braids and the tight pants. He sung straight out about Mary Jane. He dared us to be different and pushed us to the edge. He was a funker, a rocker and a balladeer. He crossed over without selling out.

I can't imagine that anybody who really loved Rick James' music would say that Super Freak was what he was all about. If you ask me, his greatest song was his duet with diva Teena Marie - 'Fire and Desire'. As I listen to it, it brings tears to my eyes, and memories of my old girl Tracy. Behind that would be 'Dream Maker' and 'Bustin' Out'.

Rick James in jail made a lot of people happy. In the Jack & Jill world I used to hang around, simply dancing to a Rick James song was frowned on, and the very thought of wearing African braids was just too much. I enjoyed the tension he brought to such parties. But when Super Freak came out, I started to wonder if this was the same man. I knew he was, but I smelled blaxploitation. Sure white radio stations would play Super Freak, but they wouldn't play 'Mr. Policeman' or 'Ghetto Life'. When it came to socially conscious songs Rick James was right behind Stevie Wonder. Rick James was too honest.

Hey Rick, you were the man. I'm Just a Sucker for your music. Still.

More Cobb around Rick James

Posted by mbowen at August 9, 2004 09:05 AM

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Tracked on August 9, 2004 11:48 AM


[...] Attempting to maintain a calmer lifestyle, he released the ballad album Garden Of Love (1980). However, it failed to appeal to listeners, so for his fifth album, Street Songs (1981), James went back to his native Buffalo for inspiration. "I disguised myself ... just to walk around," James recalled. "That's when I knew what I needed. Reality. The street. It was a revelation."

Street Songs' mix of hard funk dance grooves and new-wave rock-influenced sounds (nicknamed "punk-funk"), mixed with James' lyrical descriptions of the highs and lows of black America's ghettos, ensured that it quickly achieve double-platinum status, staying in the US Top 100 Album chart for 54 weeks. James took Street Songs - including the hit single Super Freak - on tour, and his extravagant performances included eight-foot-high reefer-shaped pillars and a skit in which two prostitutes and their pimp kicked a policeman mercilessly. During performances, James would light a joint and dare any police in the arena to arrest him. [...]

Guardian UK's "Rick James"

Posted by: George at August 9, 2004 04:37 PM