The Story Of Rick James' Super Freak
By | April 20, 2022
In 1981, Rick James dropped the immortal “Super Freak,” a song that elicits a jovial reaction at a bowling alley or a Bat Mitzvah. The intervening years have managed to soften “Super Freak’s” debaucherous subject into a karaoke classic that even grandmothers enthusiastically belt out. The song easily ranks as Rick James’ biggest hit despite only reaching #16 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the R&B list.
MTV’s disinclination to play Black artists at the time undoubtedly tempered the all-time classic’s success. You might say his iconic hit represented a piece of James, who did two stints in jail and admitted to spending $8,000 a week on cocaine during the ‘80s. Here’s the story of “Super Freak.”
The Genesis Of “Super Freak”
According to James, “I wanted to write a silly song. I was in the studio and everything else for the album (Street Songs) was done. I just put 'Super Freak' together really quickly. I wanted a silly song that had a bit of new wave texture to it. So I put (sings in a deep voice) 'She's all right'; very operatic, sort of funny, stuff.”
Rick Sanchez, an engineer on “Super Freak,” remembered how James channeled another crossover legend, “Well, Rick [James] was a music fan and a history buff. He was a huge Sly Stone fan. When he came, he said, “I want to use the same people and get the same vibe as some of those Sly things.” Sly was another person who was able to take so many different musical styles and combine them into something completely different. You can hear a lot of it in some of Rick’s arrangements.”