Funk-icon Rick James has moved out of the intensive-care unit of Cedars-Sinai Medical
Center in Los Angeles and is undergoing physical rehabilitation following a stroke
Monday that left him temporarily unable to walk.
"A rehabilitation doctor has been assigned to start an intensive physical-rehabilitation
program to enable him to ... walk," Steve Levesque, James' publicist at the Lee Solters
Company, said in a statement released Thursday morning (Nov. 12). "James says he
plans to resume his concert schedule as soon as possible."
James, who is listed in stable condition and is expected to regain his mobility, put his
current tour of the U.S. on hold indefinitely following the stroke.
On Friday, James, who is perhaps best-known for his pop-funk hit "Super Freak," broke a
blood vessel in the back of his neck during a concert at the Mammoth Event Center in
According to Levesque, James was able to finish the concert but collapsed upon coming
offstage at the end of his show. He was examined quickly by doctors, who discovered the
broken blood vessel and advised James to return to Los Angeles for further medical
examination. The singer was on the first leg of a two-month, U.S. tour.
On Monday, James complained of numbness on his right side and was admitted to
Cedars-Sinai. There, doctors determined that he had suffered a stroke that left him
temporarily unable to walk. James has retained his recognition and comprehension
Though an initial statement from Levesque blamed the clot on "rock 'n' roll neck," which
he defined as the rhythmic, whiplash motion of the head and neck practiced as part of
live performances, Dr. William Young, James' physician, said Thursday morning that he
is unable to say for certain what caused the blood to clot in that location.
"[T]he test is not able to or meant to determine if the clot was caused by trauma or a
congenital narrowing of the artery or a combination of both," Young said of the
examination that was designed to determine if blood clotting led to the stroke. "It is likely,
though, that the stroke was caused by the Denver injury."
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 plaque. James and his
doctors, however, elected to concentrate on his rehabilitation and are using
blood-thinning medication to reduce the chance of another stroke.
Neither Young, Levesque nor Cedars-Sinai spokespeople indicated how long James
might be in the hospital or how long it would be until he could walk again. 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 New Year's Eve in Atlanta -- has been
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 chart and #13 on the pop chart.
Other late-'70s James hits include "Mary Jane," "Bustin' Out," "Give It to Me Baby" and his
signature song, "Super Freak."
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 chart
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 songwriting credit.
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, pleaded 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
href="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get- music/James,_Rick/Players_Way.ram">"Player's Way"
music/James,_Rick/Players_Way.ram">"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.