Tests Find 9 Drugs in Rick James’ System

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

The death of musician Rick James on Aug. 6 was due to a heart attack, possibly contributed to by at least nine drugs in his system, including methamphetamine and cocaine, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office reported Thursday.

Xanax, Valium, Wellbutrin, Celexa, Vicodin, Digoxin and Chlorpheniramine also were found in toxicology tests, according to David Campbell of the coroner’s office.

None of the drugs were at lethal levels “in and of themselves,” Campbell said. The coroner ruled James’ death accidental.


James, whose given name was James Johnson Jr., was found dead in his Oakwood Toluca Hills apartment by his personal assistant.

The 56-year-old funk rocker and Buffalo, N.Y., native had not seen a doctor in the weeks before his death, so the coroner’s office took over the case, Campbell said.

James, who served time in prison for assault, had a history of crack cocaine abuse and suffered a stroke in 1998.

The singer, best known for his 1981 hit “Super Freak,” made what would be his final public appearance in July, when he performed “Fire & Desire” with Teena Marie at the BET Awards.

On June 29 in Beverly Hills, he received a lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers at ASCAP’s Rhythm & Soul Awards.