Daily Record 1/21/11: Street Songs-Rick James (1981)

In 1980s, 1981, funk, records, rhythm and blues, Rich's House of Vinyl, soul on January 22, 2011 at 3:49 am

Let’s consider, for a moment, the less heralded hit single.

Everybody knows Rick James for his biggest hit song, “Super Freak,” from today’s Daily Record, 1981’s Street Songs. Those of you who aren’t old enough to have experienced it first time ’round probably got a chance to hear it when MC Hammer sampled it (heavily) for his breakout hit “You Can’t Touch This.”

“Super Freak” is, indeed, a mighty song, but I’ve always felt that the “Give It To Me Baby,” the Street Songs single that preceded “Super Freak” is just as good as that song, if not better. Interestingly, while “Give It To Me Baby,” peaked at #40 Pop, it hit #1 on the R&B charts; on the other hand, “Super Freak” peaked at #16 pop, but does not appear to have hit #1 on the R&B chart, at least according to Joel Whitburn and his Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. This makes me wonder if “Super Freak” was “too pop” to be a bigger R&B hit than it was, or if its racy lyrics precluded a position in the #1 R&B slot (those lyrics clearly would have kept it from #1 Pop.

Anyway, Street Songs represented the height of James’ “punk funk” persona and, in addition to the hits mentioned above, also featured “Fire and Desire,” a steamy duet with Teena Marie, who recently died.

“Super Freak” was a big hit when I was just entering 11th grade and I seem to remember it getting tons of airplay on a popular Top 40 station (can’t remember the call letters) that was well-known for beating big hits into the skulls of unsuspecting listeners with incessant replaying.  “Super Freak” would have been one of those hits I never got tired of though.

James never quite followed through on the momentum Street Songs gave his career and, of course, he got derailed thanks to drugs, etc. He died in 2004 and (here’s a fun fact!) he’s buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York. This would be the same cemetery where our 13 president, Super Freak Millard Fillmore is buried. So, you can bet that, should I shuffle off to Buffalo, my first stop will be Forest Lawn.


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