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Last Updated: Friday, 6 August, 2004, 20:54 GMT 21:54 UK
Funk star Rick James found dead
Rick James was pictured at an award ceremony in June
Rick James was pictured at an award ceremony in June
US funk music artist Rick James has been found dead aged 56, according to police in Los Angeles.

James was best known for his 1981 hit Super Freak, which was sampled by MC Hammer on 1990 song U Can't Touch This.

He was seen as a pioneer who rescued the Motown record company in the late 1970s, but was also plagued by drug and legal problems.

"This morning Hollywood officers responded to a radio call of a natural death," a police spokeswoman said.

James died at 0945 local time (1645 GMT) on Friday at a residence near Universal City, police said.

Rick James (left) pictured with James Brown in 1991
Rick James (left) photographed with James Brown in 1991
Born in Buffalo, New York, he first enjoyed success in 1978 with the songs You and I and Mary Jane.

He went on to record funk favourites Give It To Me Baby, Cold Blooded and Can't Stop, which featured in the film Beverly Hills Cop.

The Temptations and Teena Marie were among the artists who used his producing skills.

But his career faded as hip-hop took over in the second half on the 1980s. In 1991, he burned a young woman with a hot pipe during a cocaine binge.

The following year, he assaulted a woman in a hotel room, and was sentenced to two years in jail for the two assaults.

He released a comeback album in 1997 but suffered health problems the following year.

His website said he performed at last month's Black Entertainment Television Awards and had just finished a new album.

The Super Freak of funk will be missed
Neil Portnow
Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences
It also said he was in discussion with film studios for a movie based on his life.

Neil Portnow, president of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which presents the Grammy Awards, said: "Today the world mourns a musician and performer of the funkiest kind.

"Grammy-winner Rick James was a singer, songwriter and producer whose performances were always as dynamic as his personality.

"The Super Freak of funk will be missed."


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