Abandoned by his father as a child, Ricky James was raised by his mother, a vaudeville singer who allegedly ran errands for the Mafia. From a young age he was performing on street corners and dropped out of school at 15, moving to Canada where he started performing as Big Jimmy and formed the band Mynah Birds; which for a while included Neil Young and was signed by Motown. They broke up without releasing anything but James stayed with Motown as a songwriter and producer and worked with Smokey Robinson, Bobby Taylor and the Detroit Spinners. In 1973 he released a solo single My Mama, but it was another five years before he made his mainstream breakthrough with the eight-minute single You And I, from his debut album Come Get It. His biggest hit, however, was Superfreak (1981), an irresistible dance record featuring The Temptations on backing vocals which was later sampled by MC Hammer on his 1990 hit U Can't Touch This and in 2006 by Jay-Z on Kingdom Come. James became one of the biggest stars of the 1980s with a string of hits like Tear Drops, Cold Blooded and P.I.M.P the S.I.M.P with Grandmaster Flash. However, the 1990s brought many drug problems and a spell in Folsom Prison and, although he made a comeback in 1997, he was plagued by illness and had a mild stroke. His last recording was I Got You, a collaboration with his protege Teena Marie on her album La Dona in 2004 and James died from a heart attack the same year.