By 1985, actor-comedian Eddie Murphy, then 24, was one of the world’s hottest stars, thanks to a string of blockbuster films and his run on Saturday Night Live. Looking back, it seems unsurprising that Murphy sought to conquer music, too, with his debut single “Party All the Time,” written and produced by Rick James. But Murphy’s ambitions ruffled feathers in the music biz at the time. In the Dec. 21, 1985 Billboard, R&B columnist Nelson George wrote that there were “lots of derisive comments aimed at the project. Murphy’s high-pitched singing voice was the source of much amusement … Many thought this single would be a major bomb. Yet, to look at the charts, it appears Mr. Murphy is having the last laugh.”
Indeed, “Party All the Time,” recorded at James’ Buffalo, N.Y., home, soared to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked for three weeks beginning Dec. 28, 1985. Parent album “How Could It Be,” Murphy’s first musical set, went gold, according to the RIAA.
“I was supposed to fly in for one day, then a snowstorm hit and we got … stuck in Buffalo for two weeks,” Murphy told Billboard about the song’s recording in 2013. “One of my best early memories is that time with Rick James. The whole way I record, I learned from Rick.”
George, however, had a different take on the collaboration’s chart success, writing that it “has to give pause to any hardworking black musician…James, one of MTV’s most vocal critics, has finally made it onto that network by appearing in Murphy’s video. The moral to this story? It helps to be a movie star to cross over.”