SUPER FREAK: THE LIFE OF RICK JAMES by PETER BENJAMINSON

Author of MARY WELLS: THE TUMULTUOUS LIFE OF MOTOWN'S FIRST SUPERSTAR and THE LOST SUPREME: THE LIFE OF DREAMGIRL FLORENCE BALLARD

Reviews

Library Journal Praises 'Super Freak' Book
Super Freak: The Life of Rick James" was reviewed in the February 1, 2017 issue of Library Journal. The review calls the book “a fascinating, can’t-put-it-down profile of the late, great performer… He was definitely a Super Freak, and this book will tell you why.” Read the full review below:
 
Readers might wonder what could possibly make another Rick James biography worthwhile, so soon after his posthumously published autobiography (with David Ritz) Glow.

Yet Benjaminson (The Lost Supreme: The Life of Dreamgirl Florence Ballard; Mary Wells: The Tumultuous Life of Motwon’s First Superstar; The Story of Motown) has indeed provided a fascinating, can’t-put-it-down profile of the late, great performer. While acknowledging the singer’s account, ­Benjaminson aims to fill in the cracks and reveal another side to James’s exploits, adding details that James chose to omit. His list of interviewees and references is impressive, although the reliance on secondary sources gets tiresome at times.

In the end, the story is absorbing. From James’s start with Neil Young in Toronto, through struggles at Motown, success (and excess) in the 1980s and beyond, James packed a lot into his 56 years. It’s all here.

VERDICT Rick James was one of the biggest musical stars of the 1980s, and his life was a roller-coaster of moods, musical styles, triumph, and failure. He was definitely a Super Freak, and this book will tell you why.

—Bill Baars, Lake Oswego P.L., OR

Booklist Magazine LOVES 'Super Freak'
For better or worse, he always did things his own way. Rick James was never one to shy away from a fight.

In fact, controversy followed him throughout his life and career in the form of drug abuse, crimes against women, and shocking (for the time) lyrics. And yet he remained a popular figure despite, or perhaps because of his outsized persona and often outrageous behavior.

Benjaminson follows James’ career and complicated personal life from his birth in Buffalo, New York, to his premature death of a heart attack at age 56 in 2004. He discusses James’ difficult upbringing, his desertion from the navy, his Motown recordings, his many relationships, his fight against MTV’s racist policies, and his incarceration at Folsom State Prison.

Benjaminson also describes the singer’s singular creativity, from his most famous songs, from “Super Freak” to “Mary Jane,” to the punk funk (a mix of funk, soul, and rock) that he is credited with innovating, which laid the foundation, Benjaminson maintains, for rap and hip-hop. An unapologetic, no-holds-barred biography of a flamboyant and controversial artist.

— June Sawyers