Author: Elias Benavides
“I mean, Rick James was just a man-made image, the image I created. Just trying to live Rick James almost killed me.” – Rick James
When we think of music born in Buffalo, it doesn’t take long before the King of Punk Funk, Rick James becomes a part of the conversation. Today marks the 10th anniversary of Rick’s passing. Looking back at Rick’s legacy, his musical style, stage persona, and even his tabloid worthy private life, we can appreciate what we had, a true rock star born and raised in Buffalo.
Rick’s dynamic career is a generational bridge between r&b greats James Brown and Prince. Today, the local r&b/funk scene benefits from this legacy as new generations of r&b players play alongside the musicians who both toured with Rick, and mentored the kids in the churches musically and spiritually. This scene continues to produce great young musicians in the spirit of the great r&b legends that drew from the same musical well.
After Rick’s passing, there were 2 memorial services held, one in Los Angeles, then one in Buffalo at the end of August 2004. 7000 people showed up to St. John Baptist Church on Michigan and Goodell Streets to pay their respects. Most could not get in, but there was a celebration in Rick’s honor held at Lasalle Park immediately following the service, and a tradition was born.
Every year since, Buffalo Funk Fest is held usually on the Last Saturday of August, and this year is the 10th annual event. It is a celebration carried on by a group of Rick’s friends and family, including Joyce Wilson Nixon, the CEO of the event along with the not for profit organization National Inner City Youth Opportunities, musician Wade Hawkins, Marnetta Malcolm the event coordinator, and Carmen Sims, Rick’s brother (lead image). I sat down with Carmen the other day and he continues to carry Rick’s flag with pride. Our conversation is a story for another day, but you can see Carmen at all the events at the merchandise table. Carmen is the godfather of Rick’s spirit, so you know Rick’s spirit will be there.
The event is sponsored by LP Ciminelli, Mayor Byron Brown, Council president Darius Pridgen, Councilmen Demone Smith and Rasheed Wyatt. Continental School of Beauty, Camellia Foods, The Oakk Room, CASNY, Casey’s Lawn Care, and Geneva’s automotive. Any business or organization wish to sponsor this event may contact Marnetta Malcolm at 716-544-8080.
Wade Hawkins played with Rick from the beginning and organizes the live music. Marnetta told me “When Rick went to find musicians, he got local musicians”, and the event is certainly locally flavored. The Lineup is as follows:
Grammy Award winner Skip Martin from Dazz Band
All Star Band
Old School B Boys
DJ Papa Trini
Also, Continental School of Beauty will do makeovers on the stage from audience members. The event will be hosted by Tracy Cardwell. The event is free and all are encouraged to wear red and black. Carmen told me “those were his favorite colors”.
Buffalo Funk Fest 2014
Saturday, August 23, 2014
“I wrote and produced millions and millions of selling records, so my publishing company alone was worth millions of dollars. I didn’t have to work anymore in life because when the rappers started sampling… I’m the most sampled artist in history.” -Rick James