Rick James (born James Ambrose Johnson, Jr.; February 1, 1948 – August 6, 2004) was an American musician and composer.
James started his singing career fronting doo-wop and rhythm and blues bands in his hometown of Buffalo, New York in the early 1960s, with his vocal style influenced by the likes of Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and David Ruffin. After entering the United States Navy to avoid conscription after he dropped out of high school, James deserted and relocated to Toronto, Canada where he resumed his music career. While there, James formed the rock-soul fusion band Mynah Birds, whose lineup once included a young Neil Young. James' tenure with the Mynah Birds was interrupted after he was discovered recording with the group in Motown in the 1960s, and surrendered to military authorities serving out a one-year sentence in a prison in Buffalo. James returned to Canada where he resumed the Mynah Birds, though the band eventually split; James relocated to California where he started a series of rock bands. He also had a period where he served as a staff writer with Motown (under an assumed name) before he left the label.