Ray Erskine Parker, Jr. (born May 1, 1954) is an American guitarist, songwriter, producer and recording artist. Parker is known for writing and performing the theme song to the movie Ghostbusters, for his solo music, and for performing with his band, Raydio, and with Barry White.
Parker was born in Detroit to Ray Parker, Sr. and Venolia Parker. He has two siblings, his brother Opelton and his sister Barbara.
Parker is a 1971 graduate of Detroit's Northwestern High School. He was raised in the Dexter-Davison neighborhood on its West Side.
Parker gained recognition during the late 1960s as a member of the house band at the legendary 20 Grand nightclub. This Detroit hotspot often featured Tamla/Motown acts, one of which, the (Detroit) Spinners, was so impressed with the young guitarist's skills that they added him to their touring group. Parker was also employed as a studio musician as a teenager for the emergent Holland-Dozier-Holland's Invictus/Hot Wax stable, and his choppy style was particularly prevalent on "Want Ads", a number one single for Honey Cone.
In 1972, Parker was a guest guitarist on Stevie Wonder's funk song "Maybe Your Baby" from Wonder's album Talking Book.
In 1973, he became a sideman in Barry White's The Love Unlimited Orchestra, before creating Raydio, an R&B group, in 1977, with Vincent Bohnam, Jerry Knight, and Arnell Carmichael. Parker appeared briefly in the 1974 film Uptown Saturday Night as a guitar player in the church picnic scene. Parker also wrote songs and did session work for The Carpenters, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder (an association which prompted a permanent move to Los Angeles), Deniece Williams, Jean-Luc Ponty, Leon Haywood, Temptations, The Spinners, Boz Scaggs, David Foster, Rhythm Heritage, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Honey Cone, Herbie Hancock, Tina Turner, and Diana Ross. According to TVOne's UNSUNG documentary, Ray Parker, Jr. originally wrote the number one dance single "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" by British musician Leo Sayer. However, Ray was never given credit as promised.
His first bona fide hit as a writer was "You Got the Love", co-written with Chaka Khan amd recorded by Rufus. The single hit #1 on the R&B charts and #11 on the pop charts in December, 1974.
According to a special mention, in 1976 he worked as rhythmic guitarist for Lucio Battisti's album Io tu noi tutti, translated as "Me you and all of us".
Parker endorses and plays Mérida Guitars.
Raydio scored their first big hit, "Jack and Jill", from their self-titled album in 1978 with Arista Records. The song reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, earning a million-selling gold single in the process.
Their follow-up song, "You Can't Change That", was released in 1979 from the Rock On album. The song was another Top 10 hit, peaking at #9 on the Billboard chart during the summer and also selling a million copies.
In 1980, the group became known as Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio. The group released two more albums, Two Places at the Same Time in 1980 and A Woman Needs Love in 1981.
In 1981, he produced the hard funk single "Sweat (till you get wet)" by Brick.
During the 1980s, Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio had two Top 40 hits ("Two Places at the Same Time" - #30 in 1980 and "That Old Song" - #21 in 1981) and their last and biggest hit, "A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)", released in 1981, went to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts and to #1 on the R&B Charts for two weeks in 1981.
Raydio broke up in 1981. Parker continued with his solo career, scoring six Top 40 hits, including the hit single "The Other Woman" (Pop #4) in 1982 and "Ghostbusters" in 1984. "Ghostbusters" was at #1 for three weeks on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, and at #1 for two weeks on its Black Singles chart. The song was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1984 but lost to Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You" from The Woman in Red. Parker's song secured him a 1984 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. Other hits from this period included "I Still Can't Get Over Loving You" (Pop #12) and "Jamie" (Pop #14).
Parker was one of the first black artists to venture into the then-fledgling world of music videos. In 1978, Hollywood producer Thom Eubank produced several music videos of songs from Raydio's first, eponymous album on Arista Records. The single "Jack & Jill" was the first released to air on Wolfman Jack's Saturday night television show, The Midnight Special. The music videos were also transferred to film and projected in movie theaters all over Europe. He also made two different videos for his hit "The Other Woman". The first was Halloween-themed and centered around a haunted castle with dancing corpses and vampires. The second was more performance-oriented, with Parker performing the song against an outer space background with backup singers. Parker made the performance-oriented video because MTV refused to play the Halloween-themed version due to its depiction of an interracial relationship. Parker's "Ghostbusters" video, helmed by the film's director, Ivan Reitman, was one of the first movie-themed videos to find success on MTV.
Parker also wrote and produced hits for New Edition ("Mr. Telephone Man"), Randy Hall, Cheryl Lynn ("Shake It Up Tonight"), Deniece Williams ("I Found Love") and Diana Ross. He performed guitar on several songs on La Toya Jackson's 1980 debut album. In 1989, he also wrote "Ghostbusters", a rap performed by Run-D.M.C., for the movie Ghostbusters II. 1989 also saw Parker work with actor Jack Wagner (General Hospital) on an album for MCA Records that was eventually shelved and never released. A single from the Jack Wagner sessions, "Wish You Were Mine", featuring an intro rap by Parker, was released on a 2990 MCA promotional sampler CD.
In 2006, Parker released a new CD titled I'm Free.
Ghostbusters theme song controversy:
Parker was accused of plagiarizing the melody to the Ghostbusters theme song from the Huey Lewis and the News song "I Want a New Drug", which had been released on their Sports album the previous year. Lewis sued Parker and Columbia Pictures, and the three settled out of court in 1985.
In 2001, Parker filed a suit against Lewis for breaching part of the settlement which prohibited either side from speaking about it publicly. Lewis had implied in a VH1 Behind The Music special that Parker had paid a financial settlement as part of the original agreement. The case did not make it to court; no public statement has been made as to whether the parties agreed to settle this case out of court, or if Parker simply dropped the suit.
Parker also made acting appearances on the 1980s sitcom Gimme a Break, the 1984 CBS Saturday morning kids' show Pryor's Place (for which Parker appeared in the opening title sequence singing the theme song), Disorderlies (1987), Enemy Territory (1987), Charlie Barnett's Terms of Enrollment (1986) (V) aka Terms of Enrollment (USA: short title), two episodes of Berrenger's (1985), and Uptown Saturday Night (1974). He was also a production assistant for the film Fly by Night (1993). He made guest appearances on 21 Jump Street and Kids Incorporated.
In early 2009, Parker appeared in a television advertisement for 118 118, a British directory enquiries provider. This featured Parker singing a 118-specific version of the Ghostbusters theme song. On 15 April 2009, Parker's 118 theme song was made available as a downloadable ringtone from the 118 118 mobile website.
Parker's father died of cancer on March 12, 1992, at age 82; his mother died of Alzheimer's on December 18, 1993, at age 83.
At age 40, in 1994, Ray married his wife, Elaine. They have four sons: Ray III (Little Ray), Redmen, Gibson and Jericho. In 2014, Parker received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to music.