You would think with a song this well known, I wouldn’t have had any trouble coming up with something to write about. In fact, this song wasn’t even on my radar as I sat down to write this post. There were a few others, but I wasn’t moved to write anything about them this time. I suspect they will eventually be featured, but today isn’t that day.
Today, you get Rick James. Today, you get “Super Freak” for the middle of the week version of the Morning Groove.
It wasn’t his biggest hit. It wasn’t even his first pop top 20. But it would prove to be his most influential, in many ways. Most people would probably say that “Super Freak” is the first Rick James record they knew, if not from his version, then certainly from M.C. Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.” The Hammer song basically took “Super Freak” and turned it into a hit record a second time.
In another dimension, “Super Freak” might have been the video to break down the wall that kept R&B artists off the air at MTV. No matter how much he tried, that song and that video didn’t do it. It would be Michael Jackson that forced MTV’s hand, and once that happened “Super Freak” appeared on the channel. By then though, the song had already peaked.
James had been around for quite a while before his music career took off. In the late ’60s, he worked with Neil Young in a band called the Mynah Birds. He went to London and formed another band called Main Line. By 1978, he was back in the U.S. and signed at Motown Records. His debut single, “You And I” was a #1 R&B smash and a top 20 pop hit. In the years to come, he would work with Teena Marie, the Mary Jane Girls and Eddie Murphy (yes, the comedian. “Party All The Time,” anyone?). But for a lot of people, “Super Freak” will be considered his signature song.
I hope you enjoy “Super Freak” today, and as always, thanks for reading and listening.