LOS ANGELES -- Funk-icon Rick James, 50, suffered a stroke Monday
that has left him unable to walk and forced the postponement of his
current tour. Doctors at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center were scheduled
to operate on him Tuesday (Nov. 10), but they now have chosen to
instead focus on James rehabilitation.
James, a singer/songwriter/producer best-known for the hit "Super
Freak," popped a blood vessel in the back of his neck during a concert
Friday at Mile High Stadium in Denver. According to a statement
from his public-relations representative at The Lee Solters Company,
he was examined by doctors in Denver and advised to return to Los
Angeles for further evaluation.
On Monday, James was rushed to Cedars-Sinai after he began complaining
of numbness on his right side. His publicist's statement said James'
"recognition and comprehension are fine, [although] he is unable to
"[The stroke was] caused by what is termed 'Rock 'n' Roll Neck,' "
the statement continued, defining the ailment as "the repeated
rhythmic whiplash motion of the head and neck."
According to the American Heart Association's website, the type
of stroke James had "occurs when a blood vessel bringing oxygen and
nutrients to the brain bursts or is clogged by a blood clot or some
other particle." Part of the brain then doesn't get the requisite
flow of blood, and brain cells begin dying within minutes.
The AHA's site also says that when a neck artery has become partially blocked, as is the case with James, surgery might be used to remove the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque. James' publicist said Tuesday afternoon that the performer was scheduled to undergo surgery, but as of Wednesday morning (Nov. 11) doctors had elected to instead concentrate on James' rehabilitation.
A spokesperson for Cedars-Sinai would not speculate as to how long
it might take James to recover. James' tour -- which was scheduled
to continue Thursday at the State Theatre in Cleveland and was set
to play 14 more dates before wrapping up on New Year's Eve in
Atlanta -- is now in limbo.
It might be a while before James hits the stage again. The AHA says most improvements in a person's ability to function in the first 30 days after a stroke are due to spontaneous recovery. Further rehabilitation may be necessary, however, depending on the extent to which the brain is affected, the survivor's attitude, the rehabilitation team's skill and the cooperation of family and friends.
Although James began his career in music in 1963, the Buffalo,
N.Y., native didn't come to prominence until he signed with Motown
in 1978. His solo debut, Come and Get It, sold more than a
million copies and started a long chain of hits, including
"You and I," which reached #1 on the R&B charts and #13 on the
pop charts. Other James hits from the late '70s include "Mary Jane,"
"Bustin' Out," "Give It To Me Baby" and his signature song,
He scored R&B hits in the mid-'80s with "17," "Cold Blooded" and
a duet with Smokey Robinson, "Ebony Eyes." Then, in 1990, James
was back at the top of the pop charts when MC Hammer used a loop
from "Super Freak" as the basis for his massive hit,
"U Can't Touch This." James sued Hammer over the unauthorized use
of his song but settled out of court when Hammer gave him a
The next year brought James back into the courtroom, but this
time it was criminal court, not civil court. He and his girlfriend
were accused of holding hostage and physically abusing a woman who
refused to join them in group sex. James, who claimed the incident
happened during a cocaine-fueled drug binge, ended up pleading no
contest and was sentenced to five years in prison.
When James was released in 1996, he immediately began work on a
new album. Urban Rhapsody was released in 1997 and included
such songs as "Player's Way" (RealAudio excerpt) and "So Soft, So Wet." James has been on tour ever since.
In lieu of flowers and cards, James has asked that donations be
made to the Leukemia Foundation in the name of William "Head"
Johnson, James' younger brother, who died last week of leukemia
at the age of 44.