When Charlie Murphy gets to heaven Rick James better have some Beaujolais Nouveau waiting for him. Why not welcome the man who immortalized you into the pearly gates with a hero's welcome?
Most people looked at Charlie Murphy’s legendary commentary in David Chappelle's classic Rick James sketches as an added featured talent. Another witty, obnoxious and vulgar comedian to add some controversial and enthralling spice to the skits which Chappelle masterfully owned. Besides, he was icon Eddie Murphy’s brother, so his comedic talents were embraced just off namesake.
In the wake of his sudden death, Murphy is being championed as a major contributor to Chappelle's Show, but Murphy's bigger contribution to pop culture lies in the fact that Charlie and Dave’s Rick James sketches actually kept the name and relevance of the forgotten -- and in many cases undiscovered -- soul artist alive at a time when James' contributions to the music world were being constantly jacked and unattributed.
The sketches sparked interest in the controversial music master, whose soul tunes represented his glutinous life full of women, sex and drugs over funkdafied esoteric expression. Apparently, Charlie and Eddie were homies with Rick and Charlie's material in the sketches were from first-hand experiences of watching a golden era rock star in action.
Rick James is more than a meme or the punchline and subject of some of the greatest comedic sketches of the 21st century. James started singing on the street corners of his home town Buffalo at a young age. His breakthrough song, "You and I" on the album Come Get It! was the first of a long string of hits that included “Super Freak," "Give It To Me Baby" and “Mary Jane.” His content was risque, but he was capable of composing transcending love ballads such as "Ebony Eyes", an unforgettable duet he did with the great Smokey Robinson back in 1983.
James was a classic rags-to-riches story who lived fast and hard and those principles were reflected in his music. In the '70s and '80s, he represented the deviant rock-n-roll and soul music culture to the fullest and rose to iconic status.
By the early 1990's, James' cocaine use was taking over his life and after being convicted of assaulting two women, he spent two years in prison and paid $2 million in a civil suit. After his release in 1995, he attempted a comeback but suffered a mild stroke in 1997 that ended his career. The fast life caught up with James, who died after suffering pulmonary and cardiac failure at his home in Burbank, California on August 6, 2004.
Before Chappelle’s show and Murphy’s ability to matter-of-factly express the fast-lane lifestyle and bizarre behavior of a true throwback artist, James was on his way to becoming another forgotten musical genius who succumbed to drugs and never reached his proper place in the annals of musical history.
Thanks to Charlie Murphy, even in death, Rick James has had a rebirth of popularity. The positive memories of his work as a composer and artist lives on as those personal flaws he had were turned into comedic fodder and legend for a younger generation.
So not only did Charlie Murphy stamp his relevance and emerge from the shadow of his larger-than-life brother, he further iconized a fallen star and continued to make Rick James a subject worth investigating well after his unfortunate death.