The youngest of eleven children, Bell was born in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in the Orchard Park Projects. He began his career singing with close friend, Ralph Tresvant in a group called "Ricky and Ralph." Later, Bell, along with Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, and Ronnie DeVoe became New Edition. The group began a career in 1983 that has spanned more than 30 years. After the departure of Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill joined the group in the mid-1980s. Before Gill joined the group, Bell was originally the oldest member of New Edition. After recording the Heartbreak album, Ricky was given the chance to be a solo artist but opted instead to form Bell Biv DeVoe.
The "best kept secret" originally gained the respect of the industry when record producer Jimmy Jam had an idea for a spin-off group called Bell Biv DeVoe with Bell as the lead singer. BBD as the group is commonly known, was the first group to integrate the elements of Rap and R&B consistently, calling their style "Hip-Hop smoothed out on an R&B tip with a Pop feel appeal to it." BBD's 1990 debut established Bell as a lead singer capable of chart topping success.
Although Bell had primarily performed as a backup vocalist with New Edition, during the 1990s he emerged as one of the most utilized voices on singles released by the group. With the exception of the ensemble songs, "Hot2Nite" and "Hit Me Off," and the Brown-led "You Don't Have to Worry," Bell performed lead or co-lead on the remainder of the group's charting singles. "I'm Still in Love With You," which also featured Ralph Tresvant, was so successful that a Spanish-language version was recorded, "Siempre Tu," and "One More Day" has the distinction of being the only New Edition song with a solo member appearing in the video.
Other recordings featuring Bell's vocals include Red Bandit's 1990 single "Please Don't Cry," backup vocals on "Pretty Little Girl" from Bobby Brown's 1992 album, and, with Ralph Tresvant, on LL Cool J's 1997 song "Candy."
With Bell Biv DeVoe and New Edition, Bell has over two dozen television and film performances including Knight Rider, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, New York Undercover, Family Matters, the movie Krush Groove, and numerous music, variety, and awards programs.
In 2004, in a double wedding with Tresvant, Bell married actress Amy Correa. Ricky and his wife Amy currently have no children.
Bell sung the hit song "Poison" along with Ne-Yo in the 2009 BET Awards.
In 2008, Bell, as a member of New Edition, was the recipient of the Golden Note Award at ASCAP's 21st Annual Rhythm & Soul Music Awards and is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the group. He is currently touring with Bell Biv DeVoe on various R&B music tours and recently released a new album with BBD called Three Stripes—the trio's first album in 15 years.Candy Girl (1983)
New Edition (1984)
All for Love (1985)
Under the Blue Moon (1986)
Heart Break (1988)
Home Again (1996)
One Love (2004)
Hootie Mack (1993)
Three Stripes (2017)
Ricardo Campana (2000)