Rick James Week: Mach One
It's sort of a shame that the resurgence Rick James experienced in the years leading up to his death celebrated the darker, more comical moments of his career (a la Chappelle's Show's "I'm Rick James, bitch!" sketches) because the man's musical cannon (I say cannon instead of canon because I believe James probably would have appreciated it) is as solid as any other artist considered to be a "musical genius". I've recently delved into Rick James back catalogue (unfortunately only available on its original vinyl format, save for 1981's Street Songs and a number of "Greatest Hits" comps) and found him to be a versatile and witty, but above all else funky. So many non-single tracks have commanded my attention that I've decided to christen this week the first ever "Rick James Week" on POP ZEUS! A first for the blogosphere I'm sure, but definitely not the last.
Rick James "Hollywood" (Come Get It!, 1978)
Come Get It!, Rick James & the Stone City Band's 1978 debut, featured James on its cover looking like Stevie Wonder had he joined KISS, casting a sort of "funk spell" over a scantily clad model. This Smell The Glove-esque cover is not a true represenation of the music inside however. Yes, it's a party album, just like all of Rick Jame's musical output. But underneath there is a true sensibility for emotional range, much like Nigel Tufnel's "Lick My Love Pump". "Hollywood", the second to last track on the record is the voice of a young man yearning for fame and fortune. With due respect to his parents, Rick James is on his way to Hollywood where "the singers and the movie stars and the people live in mountains and the sun shines all the time".
Alright, the lyrics don't sound like they were written by Dylan or Lennon, but the message is a bittersweet one. Rick James longed for the fame and fortune that would ultimately do him in. "Hollywood" is a somewhat naive ballad about longing to be famous and getting out of the ghetto. Ltille did Rick know that once he conquered Hollywood, Hollywood would in turn kick his fucking ass. Or maybe he did know that. Rick seems like the type who planned his excesses in advance. I don't know if he planned on kidnapping, raping and torturing a girl with his lady friend twenty something years down the line, but you never know.