Classic Rock

10 Insane Stories In Rock James’ Life and Career

todayMarch 14, 2024 1

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Rick James lived life on the edge. A musical icon who defied mortality (well, almost), James passed away in 2004 at the age of 56.  But his life was far from ordinary. Prepare to be amazed (and maybe a little horrified) by the outrageous stories that follow.

Drugs were a constant companion for James. From pre-concert cocaine binges to turning his own brother into an accidental drug smuggler, James’ commitment to the party lifestyle was legendary (and ill-advised). But the wild ride doesn’t stop there.  James’ romantic exploits were just as colorful, and rumors even hint at some truly bizarre escapades.

Buckle up, music fans. We’re about to take a deep dive into the life of Rick James, where “crazy” is just the beginning. Get ready for 15 insane stories that will leave you wondering how James managed to survive long enough to create his iconic music.

He had a memorable fling with Linda Blair

In the early 1980s, Rick James found himself in a whirlwind romance with actress Linda Blair, best known for her role in The Exorcist. The story goes that a then 22-year-old Blair declared James “the sexiest man in the world,” sparking his interest and leading him to pursue her.

Their connection blossomed into a two-year relationship, with James even crediting Blair as the muse behind his hit song “Cold Blooded.” He later made a playful reference to Blair’s iconic possessed character, hinting at the fiery nature of their romance with the remark, “It’s not just her head that swivels.”

He had his first sexual encounter at 9 years old

Rick James’ autobiography, Glow, sheds light on a challenging childhood. James describes himself as maturing early, claiming to have had his first sexual encounter at the young age of 9 or 10 with a 14-year-old girl.

This experience, according to James, led his mother to enroll him in Catholic school, hoping the nuns could curb his precocious behavior. While he initially embraced the stricter environment, even becoming an altar boy, the influence didn’t last. James admits to being drawn back to the excitement of the streets and the attention of older girls.

He destroyed a one-of-a-kind sketch by Salvador Dali

A chance encounter in Hawaii in 1980 led to a near-miss with artistic history. At a dinner party, Rick James met the legendary Salvador Dali. Struck by James’ flamboyant style, Dali declared himself “mad about the way [he] look[ed]” and requested to sketch him. Twenty minutes later, James walked away with a one-of-a-kind Dali original on a napkin.

Tragically, the party took a turn for the worse. James, indulging in his usual habits, went for a swim with the Dali sketch still in his pocket. The encounter with Dali may have been unforgettable, but the artwork itself was instantly destroyed by the Hawaiian dip.

He had a chilling encounter with Jim Morrison

Newly settled in LA in 1969, James befriended Stephen Stills. Their house became a hub for jam sessions and crashing musicians, including Jim Morrison. One night, James awoke to a chilling sight: a stoned Morrison on the floor, his wrists bleeding.

Entranced by his own blood, Morrison muttered about its beauty. James rushed to get Stills, who patched Morrison up and revealed it was the Doors’ frontman.

The encounter foreshadowed another wild experience. After seeing The Doors perform, Morrison tricked James into taking acid. Recognizing the inevitable, James simply thought, “Oh well, it was going to happen sooner or later.”

He briefly walked the path of a pimp

While working as a songwriter for Motown in the late 60s, James took an unusual detour. Inspired by a few hustlers at the label, he decided to try his hand at pimping. However, this venture proved short-lived.

James realized he lacked the necessary ruthlessness and emotional detachment for the job. He found the entire experience “inhuman” and quickly returned to the world of music.

He almost got killed by the insane Manson family

A close call with death underscored the volatile times of the late 60s. In 1969, Rick James was invited to a party at the Cielo Drive residence of Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. Unfortunately, a headache forced James to skip the event and head to bed instead. 

The next morning, a trip to the grocery store brought a horrifying realization. Newspaper headlines screamed “Sharon Tate, Four Others Murdered.” Among the victims was James’ friend, hairstylist Jay Sebring. The realization that he could have been there that night sent shivers down James’ spine.

He had a dangerous and disturbing era

The early 90s brought a dark turn for James. As his mother’s health declined, he plunged into what he called “the lowest level of hell.” This period involved shocking and disturbing group activities and intimate encounters.

While the exact details remain mercifully vague, these experiences undeniably fueled James’ drug use. This dangerous spiral ultimately landed him in jail for assaulting his girlfriend.

He once became a member of the Mynah Birds

Toronto in 1964 offered a fresh start for James, a draft dodger seeking refuge. A chance encounter after a street fight led to a musical opportunity. Levon Helm and Garth Hudson, impressed by James’ talent during an impromptu jam session, invited him to join their band.

The Mynah Birds, with the addition of Bruce Palmer and Neil Young, quickly gained traction. Motown Records signed them in 1966. However, disaster struck when their manager embezzled funds. When the band fired him, he retaliated by exposing James’ draft-dodging status.

This resulted in a year-long jail stint for James, ultimately leading to the Mynah Birds’ disbandment. Band members went on to form legendary groups like Steppenwolf and Buffalo Springfield, while James set his sights on a solo career with Motown.

He was a draft dodger

Facing the Vietnam War draft in his teens, Rick James took drastic measures. Underage and desperate to avoid service, he lied about his age to join the Navy Reserve at 14 or 15. However, military life quickly lost its appeal. 

After just two weeks, James deemed it “military crap” and started skipping his training sessions. When they threatened to send him to Vietnam, James made a bold move: he fled to Toronto, Canada. This unexpected turn of events landed him in the company of future musical legends like Garth Hudson, Levon Helm, Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell.

He bullied Prince and made the latter cry

The rivalry between Rick James and Prince was no secret. James felt Prince stole his musical style and that Prince’s band members were arrogant. Despite the tension, Prince and his crew crashed James’s 32nd birthday party in 1980.

In a bizarre turn of events, James grabbed Prince by the hair and poured cognac down his throat until he cried. The animosity continued two years later when Prince allegedly refused to give James’s mother an autograph at an American Music Awards after-party.

Thankfully, an apology prevented a physical altercation, though James admitted his disappointment at the missed opportunity for a fight.

Written by: Best Classic Bands Staff

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