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Rick James - The Confessions Of Rick James 
Besides being one of the most talented funk musicians of the late 1970s and 80s, Rick James was one of the most outrageous characters ever to grace the music scene.  While Dave Chapelle and Charlie Murphy publicized some of Rick's madness via their classic skit on the Dave Chapelle Show, they did not capture even half of the whirlwind that was James' reality.

Confessions Of Rick James: Memoirs Of A Superfreak was written while James was incarcerated, and people who know him only from the Chapelle caricature will find him as uncompromising, obscene, and oddly compelling as the show made him to be.  But Confessions also reveals James to be more intelligent than his image suggested, with a wealth of knowledge about the intracacies of show business, culture, and human nature that was one of the reasons he was so successful. 

Despite being over 400 pages, Confessions is a quick read because of Rick's conversational style.  Holding nothing back, he provides dozens of fascinating stories about his childhood and family, serving time in the military, living in Canada, and his drug-dealing lifestyle before becoming famous that help provide an insight into his unique character.  His accounts of experiences with George Clinton, Prince, Timothy Hutton, Steven Tyler, and a myriad of other celebrities are worth the price of the book alone.   Of course, there is a wealth of information about his musical history, which you may be surprised to learn stretches back to the 1960s.

With typically honest flair, James is very upfront about his drug addiction and the circumstances that led up to his prison sentence. It is surprising to learn that James, who never went out of his way to impress anybody, got started on freebase because he was trying to live up to his reputation while socializing with gang members.  The only time I doubted James' sincerity was when he portrayed his prison time as if he were staying in a hotel. For someone as free-spirited as Rick James, I suspect the restrictions were more stressful than he let on.

Because the book was written before the resurgence kicked off by the Chapelle skit, the epilogue is particularly insightful.  Written by longtime personal assistant Linda Hunt, we learn of Rick's continued generosity to others, excitement for the future, and inability to leave drugs alone.

It is a shame that James was not alive to fully capitalize on his popularity, but  Confessions is the portrait of a man with few regrets.  He could have borrowed a page from Sinatra and called the book My Way, because that was certainly the way James lived.   

Copyright 2008  All rights reserved.



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