“Candy Man” by The Mary Jane Girls (1983)

Rick James started experimenting with a more synthesizer-dominated sound beginning with this song, which climbed the charts in early 1983. It was the first hit for The Mary Jane Girls, a group of young women that he put together in the wake of his arch rival Prince’s success with Vanity 6. Or did Rick have the idea first? In his autobiography, Rick suggests that Prince stole the idea of ladies strutting around in their draws from him. However, if you read either of Rick’s autobiographies (the self-released one and the one co-authored with David Ritz), you realize that Rick’s bitterness regarding Prince’s success may have led to some untruths created to make himself look better. Plus, cocaine.

Rick hadn’t lost full control of his faculties for “Candy Man”. It’s a heater. Unlike Vanity 6′s rather blatant “Nasty Girl” (which, make no mistake, is also a heater), “Candy Man” is subtle and innuendo-laden (side note: the video? Not so subtle.) Joanne McDuffie was a better singer than Vanity, Brenda and Susan combined, and that itchy synth groove is a keeper. The Mary Jane Girls, unfortunately, scored their biggest hit with their worst single, the Rick-by-numbers “In My House”.

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