Born: 1 February 1948
Birthplace: Buffalo, New York
Died: 6 August 2004 (heart attack)
James was a leading funk singer/songwriter of the 1980s. He got his start as a bassist in various bands before going solo in the late 1970s; his 1978 solo debut Come Get It! included the hits "Mary Jane" and "You and I" and made him a force in the world of danceable funk. His signature hit came from his 1981 album Street Songs; "Super Freak" was nominated for a Grammy and remained a dependable party tune for years. (The rapper MC Hammer had a major 1990 hit with "U Can't Touch This," which featured Hammer rapping over the catchy bass line from "Super Freak.") James was found dead in his Los Angeles home by an assistant on 6 August 2004.