Funk Legend Rick James Dies

Funk legend Rick James was found dead at 9:45 a.m. PT this morning (Aug. 6) at his Los Angeles home by a caretaker, according to a police spokesperson. He was 56. The cause of death was believed to be natural. The artist had a history of drug problems that led to poor health in recent years, including a 1998 stroke.

In addition to his own slew of pop and R&B hits, such as “Super Freak (Part 1),” “You and I” and “Mary Jane,” James wrote and produced songs for the likes of Teena Marie, the Temptations and Eddie Murphy. The one-time Navy deserter fell prey to drugs, and spent time behind bars in the 1990s for assault and holding a woman against her will.

James was recently honored with the Heritage Award from performing arts society ASCAP. Prior to the ceremony, he told Billboard he was planning to release a 30-song double-CD on his Sony/RED-distributed label, Ma Records.

“God sat me down to pay attention,” James said about the stroke. “Then he told me to get back up and hit the stage, and I’m enjoying it.”

James also claimed he was ready to retire from the music business “to do something more spiritual.” His daughter Ty, a rapper, is recording and negotiating a deal for her own solo album.

The artist roared back into the public consciousness earlier this year thanks to a series of hilarious, oft-quoted sketches on Comedy Central’s “Chapelle’s Show.” The show’s host/creator, Dave Chappelle, was in early talks to star as James in a film based on his upcoming autobiography, “Memoirs of a Super Freak.”


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