- The Washington Times - Friday, August 6, 2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Funk legend Rick James, best known for the 1981 hit “Super Freak” before his career disintegrated amid drug use and violence that sent him to prison, died yesterday. He was 56.

Mr. James died in his sleep at his residence near Universal City, said publicist Sujata Murthy. Mr. James lived alone and was found dead by his personal assistant, who notified police, she said.

Police believe Mr. James died of natural causes. The exact cause was not immediately released, pending an autopsy.

Publicist Maureen O’Connor, speaking on behalf of Mr. James’ three children, said they believed he died of heart failure.

“He passed away peacefully in his sleep,” Miss O’Connor said.

Little Richard told MSNBC, “I think he was really fantastic, he was a creator.

“He made a lot of people happy, he made a lot of friends and a lot of people got famous through his music,” he said, referring to sampling by hip-hop artists such as MC Hammer, who used the “Super Freak” bass line in his hit “U Can’t Touch This.”

The song earned Mr. James and MC Hammer the Grammy for best R&B; song in 1990.

Mr. James had hits from the 1970s into the ‘80s, but by the following decade, he became embroiled in legal problems and health troubles.

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