Rick James was one of those death-defying music legends who seemed immune to the ravages of hard living. But sadly, he was only mortal; he died of heart failure in 2004 at the age of 56. Once you hear some of the crazy stories about Rick James, you'll be astonished that he made it past 27.
It's no surprise that many of the craziest stories from Rick James's life revolve around drugs. Whether he was doing copious amounts of cocaine before going on stage or making his brother an unwitting drug mule, James was a one-person stand against rehab. And those aren't even the wildest tales from the life of Rick James. He had plenty of romantic partners - and might have even engaged in some nefarious experimentation.
Rick James may be gone, but what he has left behind are some truly unforgettable stories that have a starting baseline of absolutely crazy. Delve deeper into his biography, and you'll discover that those shenanigans are nothing short of insane.
James did not like Prince. He was convinced that Prince had stolen his moves, and thought the younger artist's band members were stuck-up and rude. Apparently, that dislike wasn't enough to stop Prince and his crew from crashing James's 32nd birthday party in 1980. James's response? He grabbed Prince by the back of his hair and poured cognac down his throat until he spat it out and "started crying like a baby."
Two years later, Prince and James nearly came to blows at an after-party for the American Music Awards. Allegedly, Prince refused to give James's mother an autograph. He eventually apologized, and a fight never happened. James said he "was a little disappointed 'cause I really did wanna kick his ass."
As a teenager in the '60s, James was desperate to get out of the Vietnam War. Despite only being 14 or 15 at the time, he lied and said he was 18 to join the Navy Reserve and avoid the draft. But two weeks into training, James decided that there was "no point to any of this military crap." He began flaking on his twice-monthly sessions, and was called up to Vietnam.
Toronto was the place to be in 1964. That's when James, fleeing the Vietnam War draft, ended up there. Almost immediately, he got into a street fight. He claimed he was rescued by musicians Levon Helm and Garth Hudson, who took him to a bar afterwards. Helm and Hudson invited James to join them onstage for a performance, and he impressed them so much they invited him to join their band.
The group became known as the Mynah Birds. They were signed to Motown Records in 1966, and added some new faces to the lineup: Bruce Palmer and Neil Young. Unfortunately, the band's album wasn't released; their manager misappropriated funds, and when the musicians fired him, he told Motown that James was a draft-dodger. James wound up serving a year in jail.
The Mynah Birds ultimately disbanded. Former members Goldy McJohn and Nick St. Nicholas formed Steppenwolf, while Neil Young and Bruce Palmer became Buffalo Springfield. As for James, he began working on solo music with Motown.
When his mother's health began slipping in the early '90s, James entered what he referred to as "the lowest level of hell," engaging in various types of scandalous group activities and repulsive intimate encounters.
He didn't get into the specifics of these acts, and that's probably for the best. Whatever happened, James's activities led to copious drug use, and in turn, a stint in jail for assaulting his then-girlfriend.