Have you ever watched something so ridiculous that it becomes both perfect and almost life-changing? That for me is the video for Rick James single featuring Smokey Robinson off of his 1983 album, Cold Blooded.
I don’t know why God made me the way he did, but I was structurally engineered to enjoy unbridled blackness in all of its forms. I’m rooting for everybody black isn’t nearly as much of a thing as we want it to be, and I’m not exception, but I probably fall further down that line towards “My Ethos” than others. It is why I can enjoy with glee nonsensical black productions where reality and story and plot matter.
With that said, I fucking LOVE this song AND video. I wrote about it a few years ago and I will quote myself because, well, it turns out I said everything I need to say about this iconic (song and) video then. I called the song a perfect moment in black history and I stand on that. I mean, this video is a mini-movie, and a bad one at that. I love it. It’s the stuff love is made of.
With Motown and music legend Robinson in tow, James wrote an ode to black women that was slower tempo and more traditional R&B than most of his hits.
While James was known for the punk-funk stylings of his larger hits, “Ebony Eyes” saw him smooth it out and keep it mellow, mellow. Robinson and James traded stanzas, and most of the hook duties went to James, creating one of the absolutely most perfect karaoke songs of all time, since James’ singing is more performance than it is good. And that’s really what karaoke is all about. I love Rick James; that was not a shot.
But with “Ebony Eyes,” we have an ode to black women being sung by the smooth crooner and the super freak, who shot a nonsensical eight-minute mini movie (the year after Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” no less) about their plane, Ebony Eyes, crashing on a beach because of bad weather, and the two of them singing about their ebony-eyed angels back home.
They build spears, have tiki torches, there’s a parrot and they shave; James throws an SOS note into the ocean and then a trunk full of white suits—literally, white suits—shows up, they shoot flares, and their women show up on a yacht and rescue them.
It’s bad, real bad, Joe Jackson. But it’s also perfect because it’s Rick James doing Rick James things.
“Ebony Eyes” is a perfect music moment in black history, and I bet you didn’t know that, ebony eyes.
If two black men ship-wrecked an island whose SOS results in a trunk full of white clothes isn’t iconic shit, then really, what is???