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. He entered the United States Navy to avoid conscription after dropping out of high school, and deserted and relocated to Toronto, where he resumed his music career. While there, James formed the rock-soul fusion band Mynah Birds, whose lineup once included Bruce Palmer, Neil Young, and Nick St. Nicholas. 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. He served a one-year prison sentence in Buffalo. Afterwards, James returned to Canada, where he resumed the Mynah Birds, though the band eventually split; James moved 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 a pen name) before he left the label.