cover image Glow: The Autobiography of Rick James

Glow: The Autobiography of Rick James

Rick James with David Ritz. Atria, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4767-6414-6

"Super Freak" funk star James, who died of a heart attack in 2004, delivers, with award-winning music author Ritz, a fast-paced memoir recounting his sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll exploits. The unusual but appealing story-within-a-story is presented as recollected conversations with "Brotha Guru," a Buddha-like friend James makes while serving time in Folsom State Prison. The narrative device serves to introduce Brotha Guru's idea of "the Me Monster," his term for the perils of egoism and being one's own worst enemy, which becomes the book's prominent theme. James is prone to self-sabotage through drugs and sexual mishaps%E2%80%94the most shocking anecdote being his simultaneous involvement with a mother and daughter in Sweden who hide his passport and refuse to let him leave. James makes for a likeably flawed protagonist, portraying his struggles to break through with his music and stay out of prison. The stories strike a range of tones, from humor to suspense: a migraine saves James from the Manson murders, and James' recounting of a daring, successful jailbreak. While references to a brief stint as a pimp and constant womanizing may be offensive to some, James' cyclical struggle to get clean as his career rises and falls creates tension between the addict's need and musician's ambition: "I was coked out of my mind, I prayed for my death. Death didn't come, but something else did%E2%80%94new ideas for songs." (July)