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Super Freak

by

Rick James



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song is about a girl who is very adventurous sexually, especially with members of a band. A "Freak" is slang for someone willing to try various fetishes, thus a "Super Freak" will try just about anything. James was famous for his penchant toward "freakish" behavior, which got him in trouble with the law when he and his girlfriend were arrested for kidnapping another girl for sex.
This was the biggest hit for James. He had just modest success on the Hot 100 (where he never scored a Top 10 hit) but had four #1 R&B hits and was a prolific producer and innovator of Funk. Explaining how he came up with this song, he told Musician magazine in 1983: "I wanted to write a silly song. I was in the studio and everything else for the album (Street Songs) was done. I just put 'Super Freak' together really quickly. I wanted a silly song that had a bit of new wave texture to it. So I just came up with this silly little lick and expounded on it. I came up with the bass part first. Then I put a guitar on it and keyboards, doing the 'ehh ehh,' silly keyboard part. Then I found a tuning on my Oberheim OB-Xa that I'd been wanting to use for a long time – it sounds like ghosts. And I put a very operatic vocal structure on it 'cause I'm really into opera and classical music. You probably hear a lot of that in my music. So I put (sings in a deep voice) 'She's all right'; very operatic, sort of funny, stuff."
The famous bass line in this song was sampled by MC Hammer for his biggest hit, "U Can't Touch This." James filed suit against Hammer, which ended in an out-of-court settlement giving James a songwriting credit on the track. This resulted in James' only Grammy Award when "U Can't Touch This" won in 1991 for Best R&B Song.
This was released on Motown Records, and featured backup vocals by The Temptations, something James points out in the song when he screams: "Tempations sing." One of their members, Melvin Franklin, was Rick James' uncle.
"Super Freak" was released about five months after MTV went on the air, and Rick James made a slick video for the song hoping it would get some spins on the network. At the time, however, MTV refused to play videos by black artists, and they rejected this clip, continuing to feed America a steady stream of Rock and EuroPop. This refusal to play black music was a holdover from radio station programming, where conventional wisdom was that you would lose your white listeners if you played black music. The first black artist to make MTV with a new song was Musical Youth, who despite adapting a song about smoking marijuana, was a lot less scary to network executives than the glitter-vested James singing about kinky sex. This color barrier was shattered by Michael Jackson, who brought a new sound and sophistication to the network with the videos for his Thriller album.
Even though the network didn't play this video, Rick James eventually made peace with MTV and put their co-founder, Les Garland, in the video for Eddie Murphy's song "Party All the Time," which James produced. As for exactly why MTV passed on "Super Freak," their director of acquisitions, Carolyn Baker, explained in the book I Want My MTV: "It wasn't MTV that turned down 'Super Freak.' It was me. I tuned it down. You know why? Because there were half-naked women in it, and it was a piece of crap. As a black woman, I did not want that representing my people as the first black video on MTV."
Over the years, the word "Freak" became very popular and Hip Hop and R&B lyrics. It's a versatile word that can be used as both a verb ("Freak Me") and a noun ("The Freaks Come Out At Night"). Use of the word peaked in the mid-'90s with the phrase, "Get your freak on."
The Dutch dance duo The Beatfreakz covered this in 2006. Their version reached #7 in the UK, the first time this song charted in Britain as Rick James original version wasn't a hit there.
In the movie Little Miss Sunshine, the little girl Olive does a wonderfully inappropriate dance to this song in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. (thanks, Nicole - Raymond, WA)
When James implores, "Blow, Danny!," he's talking to his sax player Daniel LeMelle just before his solo.
A Los Angeles DJ named Alonzo Miller is credited as a writer on this track along with James. Miller worked on the lyrics with James, helping tone them down so the song had a better chance of getting airplay and crossing over to a white audience. Miller was able to get the song played at the station where he worked, KACE.
Rick James
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Comments (13):

More Rick James informaition for you: James had a journeyman's career playing bass in various groups before signing again to Motown as an artist, songwriter, and producer. His first single, "You and I" (May 1978), topped the R&B charts and reached the pop Top 40. "Mary Jane" (September 1978) was another hit. Both were on James' debut album, Come Get It! (June 1978), which went gold. Subsequent efforts were not as successful, though Bustin' Out of L Seven (January 1979) featured the R&B hit "Bustin' Out" (April 1979). James returned to form with the number one R&B hit "Give It to Me Baby" (March 1981), featured on the million-selling Street Songs (April 1981), which also featured the hit "Super Freak."

James turned his production attention to resuscitating the career of the Temptations, recently returned to Motown, and "Standing on the Top" (April 1982), credited to the Temptations featuring Rick James, was an R&B Top Ten. (He also produced recordings by Teena Marie and the Mary Jane Girls.) James' follow-up to Street Songs was the gold-selling Throwin' Down (May 1982), which featured the hit "Dance Wit' Me." The title song of Cold Blooded (August 1983) became James' third R&B number one, and the album also featured his hit duet with Smokey Robinson, "Ebony Eyes." James' greatest-hits album Reflections (August 1984) featured the new track "17" (June 1984), which also became a hit. Glow (April 1985) contained Top Ten R&B singles in the title track and "Can't Stop," which was featured in the summer movie blockbuster Beverly Hills Cop. The Flag (June 1986) featured the hit "Sweet and Sexy Thing" (May 1986).
- Biff, Pensacola, FL
Rick James was a HUGE solo artist. He had gold and platinum albums as a solo artist. He broke many attendance records at various arenas. Between 1979- 1985 There weren't many artist as popular and big as him.
- Biff, Pensacola, FL
Its appaulling to read comment insinuating without Super freak rick didnt have success. He got a million dollar advance from Motown for 10 straight albums just to write them, he single handedly saved motown from going under with the Street Songs album. He toured the world to sellout crowds. If he would have catered to "The Pop audience" instead of pumping out heavy funk He woulda been 10 times bigger. And that Chappelle show shit made him a household name, but not for the right reasons. He was a musical genius who could write and produce a hit with the snap of his fingers.....so if that isn't success WTF is? Also in fact he did write Super Freak as a joke so and i quote rick " so that white people could have something to dance to"
backing up my point if he woulda wrote a whole album of Super Freaks he woulda sold 20 million copies.

" No Sell Out"
- kitrik, edmonton, AB
Rick James died in Los Angeles August 6, 2004 of a heart attack. By the way, did you know that Rick was in a rock group with Neil Young called the Mynah Birds? He was AWOL from the Navy at the time and the authorities came and got him.
- John, Eugene, OR
'Super Freak' was released on Gordy records, not Motown.Be careful what you read up on the 'facts' sheet, it's not always accurate.
- John, Eugene, OR
love this song
- Kara, Crossett, AR
Buffalo loves you Rick...
- john, Grand Island, NY
The song mentions "room 714, I'll be waiting". 714 was street slang for metaqualone; more commonly known as "Quaaludes". These hypnotic sedatives were often used to aid in "crashing" frpm a cocaine binge.
- Craig Lee, Valdosta, GA
Alonzo Miller was a California deejay who banned guitarist/producer Nile Rodger's record "Yum Yum" from his show for being too sexual. In an editorial for Billboard magazine, Nile wrote that he found it ironic that his record was being banned by a guy who co-wrote a song celebrating group sex.
- John, Nashville, TN
Love James or hate him you'll have to admit this is a catchy tune.Sadly for James this massive hit made it possible for him to jump headfirst into a mountain of cocaine and not come up until his heart blew out.

The episode of "Chapelle's Show" where Charlie Murphy ,Eddie's brother ,and James is on is hilarious.
- Mark, byrdstown, TN
wow people are always slamming on michael jackson but atleast hes not as bad as rick james! (althugh i do love both of their music)
- lorelei, ellsworth, ME
Absolutlely perfect choice for the defining scene of the recent movie, Little Miss Sunshine. One of the great moments in film history as the bonding of a family is immortailized by an unlikely song.
- John, Edinburg, VA
"Super Freak" (from James' 1981 album STREET SONGS) has two people credited as the authors: Rick James and his friend, a Los Angeles radio disc jockey named Alonzo Miller. When MC Hammer sampled the song for his massive 1990 hit "U Can't Touch This", he also credited them as co-writers of the song. The result: when "U Can't Touch This" won the 1991 Grammy for Best R&B Song, so did James and Miller.
- Jimoh, The Bronx NY, NY
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