LOS ANGELES - Funk legend Rick James, best known for the 1981 hit "Super Freak," died Friday, apparently of natural causes, police said.
James died at 9:45 a.m. at a residence near Universal City, said Police Department spokeswoman Esther Reyes.
"We learned of his death after responding to a radio call," Reyes said.
After his big hit, James' fame began to fade as he became embroiled in drugs, legal problems and health issues.
James was convicted in 1993 of assaulting two women. The first attack occurred in 1991 when he restrained and burned a young woman with a hot pipe during a cocaine binge at his house in West Hollywood. He was free on bail when the second assault occurred in 1992 in James' hotel room.
James was sentenced to more than two years in state prison.
In 1997, he released a new album, but a year later he suffered a stroke while performing at Denver's Mammoth Events Center, derailing a comeback tour.
In 1998 he also underwent hip replacement surgery.
With his trademark Jheri curl, James was one of the biggest R&B stars of the 1980s, using danceable rhythms and passionate ballads to gain a wide following. Aside from "Super Freak" - which MC Hammer used a decade later as the backing track for his monster hit "U Can't Touch This" - James' hits included "Mary Jane," "Ebony Eyes" and "Fire and Desire," a stirring duet with Teena Marie.