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James' Death Drug Related

Funk legend's autopsy reveals traces of nine drugs

September 17, 2004 12:00 AM ET
Toxicology tests revealed traces of drugs in funk legend Rick James' system.

The fifty-six-year-old artist's August 6th death by heart attack was initially attributed to "natural causes" by the family, but the Los Angeles County coroner has concluded that a combination of nine drugs likely contributed to James' death. The substances discovered include cocaine, methamphetamine, painkiller Vicodin, and anti-depressants Xanax and Wellbutrin.

James, the funk artist best known for his 1981 hit "Super Freak," had struggled with a crack addiction for years, leading to two years in a California prison for assault in 1993. Before his death, James had claimed to have been sober since his release.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

More Song Stories entries »
 
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