Best known for his 1980s hit songs “Super Freak,” “Give it to Me Baby,” and “Mary Jane,” the late singer and funk music pioneer Rick James collaborated with acclaimed music biographer David Ritz in this posthumously published, no-holds-barred memoir of a rock star’s life and soul.
He was the nephew of Temptations singer Melvin Franklin; a boy who watched and listened, mesmerized from underneath cocktail tables at the shows of Etta James and Miles Davis. He was a vagrant hippie who wandered to Toronto, where he ended up playing with Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, and he became a household name in the 1980s with his hit song “Super Freak.” Later in life, he was a bad boy who got caught up in drug smuggling and ended up in prison. But since his passing in August 2004, Rick James has remained a legendary icon whose name is nearly synonymous with funk music—and who popularized the genre, creating a lasting influence on pop artists from Prince to Jay-Z to Snoop Dogg, among countless others.
In Glow, Rick James and acclaimed music biographer David Ritz collaborated to write a no-holds-barred memoir about the boy and the man who became a music superstar in America’s disco age. It tells of James’s upbringing and how his mother introduced him to musical geniuses of the time. And it reveals details on many universally revered artists, from Marvin Gaye and Prince to Nash, Teena Marie, and Berry Gordy. James himself said, “My journey has taken me through hell and back. It’s all in my music—the parties, the pain, the oversized ego, the insane obsessions.” But despite his bad boy behavior, James was a tremendous talent and a unique, unforgettable human being. His “glow” was an overriding quality that one of his mentors saw in him—and one that will stay with this legendary figure who left an indelible mark on American popular music.
"Super Freak" funk star James, who died of a heart attack in 2004, delivers, with award-winning music author Ritz, a fast-paced memoir recounting his sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll exploits. The unusual but appealing story-within-a-story is presented as recollected conversations with "Brotha Guru," a Buddha-like friend James makes while serving time in Folsom State Prison. The narrative device serves to introduce Brotha Guru's idea of "the Me Monster," his term for the perils of egoism and being one's own worst enemy, which becomes the book's prominent theme. James is prone to self-sabotage through drugs and sexual mishaps the most shocking anecdote being his simultaneous involvement with a mother and daughter in Sweden who hide his passport and refuse to let him leave. James makes for a likeably flawed protagonist, portraying his struggles to break through with his music and stay out of prison. The stories strike a range of tones, from humor to suspense: a migraine saves James from the Manson murders, and James' recounting of a daring, successful jailbreak. While references to a brief stint as a pimp and constant womanizing may be offensive to some, James' cyclical struggle to get clean as his career rises and falls creates tension between the addict's need and musician's ambition: "I was coked out of my mind, I prayed for my death. Death didn't come, but something else did new ideas for songs."