Updated: Nov 17, 2021
`Northwestern High School. He was raised in the Dexter-Grand Boulevard neighborhood on its West Side. Parker attended college at Lawrence Institute of Technology.
Parker gained recognition during the late 1960s as a member of Bohannon's house band at the 20 Grand nightclub. This Detroit hotspot often featured Tamla/Motown acts, one of which, the (Detroit) Spinners, was so impressed by the young guitarist's skills that they added him to their touring group. Through the Bohannon relationship, he recorded and co-wrote his first songs at age 16 with Marvin Gaye. Parker was also employed as a studio musician as a teenager for the emergent Holland-Dozier-Holland's Invictus/Hot Wax stable, and his 'choppy' style was particularly prevalent on "Want Ads", a number one single for Honey Cone. Parker was later enlisted by Lamont Dozier to appear on his first two albums for ABC Records.
In 1972, Parker was a guest guitarist on Stevie Wonder's funk song "Maybe Your Baby", from Wonder's album Talking Book, an association which prompted a permanent move to Los Angeles. He also was the lead guitarist for Wonder when Wonder served as the opening act on the Rolling Stones' 1972 tour. In 1973, he became a sideman in Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra. Parker appeared briefly in
Parker also wrote songs and did session work for the Carpenters, Bill Cosby, Rufus and Chaka Khan, the Supremes, Aretha Franklin, Deniece Williams, Bill Withers, Michael Henderson, Jean-Luc Ponty, Leon Haywood, the Temptations, Boz Scaggs, David Foster, Rhythm Heritage, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Herbie Hancock, Tina Turner, and Diana Ross. Parker's first bona fide hit as a writer was "You Got the Love", co-written with Chaka Khan and recorded by Rufus. The single hit No. 1 on the R&B charts and No. 11 on the pop charts in December 1974. In 1976, he featured as rhythm guitarist on Lucio Battisti's album Io tu noi tutti, translated as "Me you and all of us"
the 1974 film Up town Saturday Night as a guitar player in the church picnic
In 1977, Parker created the Rscene. &B group Raydio with Vincent Bonham, Jerry Knight, and Arnell Carmichael. Raydio scored their first big hit with "Jack and Jill", from their 1978 self-titled album with Arista Records. The song reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, earning a Gold single and Gold album in the process. Their follow-up hit, "You Can't Change That", was released in 1979 from the Rock On album. The song was another Top 10 hit, peaking at No. 9 on the Billboard chart during the summer and selling a million copies.
In 1980, the group became known as Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio. The group released two more albums: Two Places at the Same Time in 1980 and A Woman Needs Love in 1981, both Gold albums. In 1981, Parker produced the hard funk single "Sweat (Till You Get Wet)" by Brick. During the 1980s, Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio had two Top 40 hits: "Two Places at the Same Time" (No. 30 in 1980) and "That Old Song" (No. 21 in 1981). Their last and biggest hit, "A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)", released in 1981, went to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 1 on the R&B Chart for two weeks that year.
Raydio broke up in 1981. Parker continued with his solo career, scoring eight Top 40 hits, including the hit single "The Other Woman" (Pop No. 4) in 1982 and "Ghostbusters" in 1984. "Ghostbusters" peaked at No. 1 for three weeks on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, and at No. 1 for two weeks on its Black Singles chart. The song was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1984, but lost to Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You" from The Woman in Red. Parker's song secured him a 1984 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. Other hits from this period included "I Still Can't Get Over Loving You" (Pop No. 12) and "Jamie" (Pop No. 14).
Parker at the Montreux Jazz Festival 2009, Montreux, Switzerland
Parker also wrote and produced hits for New Edition ("Mr. Telephone Man"), Randy Hall, Cheryl Lynn ("Shake It Up Tonight"), Deniece Williams ("I Found Love"), and Diana Ross. He performed guitar on several songs on La Toya Jackson's 1980 debut album. In 1989, Run-D.M.C. performed a rap for the movie Ghostbusters II that contained elements of Parker's 1984 hit. 1989 also saw Parker work with actor Jack Wagner (General Hospital) on an album for MCA Records that was eventually shelved and never released. A single from the Wagner sessions, "Wish You Were Mine", featuring an intro rap by Parker, was released on a 1990 MCA promotional sampler CD.
In 2006, Parker released a new CD titled I'm Free. In 2014, he was invited by producer Gerry Gallagher to record with Latin rock musicians El Chicano, as well as Alphonse Mouzon, Brian Auger, Alex Ligertwood, Siedah Garrett, Walfredo Reyes Jr., Spencer Davis, Lenny Castro, Vikki Carr, Pete Escovedo, Peter Michael Escovedo, Jessy J, Marcos J. Reyes, Salvador Santana, and David Paich. In July 2016, Parker performed on the ABC network's television show Greatest Hits. Parker is also the founder and owner of the Los Angeles-based recording facility Ameraycan Recording Studios.
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