Syl Johnson (born July 1, 1936) is an American blues and soul singer
and music producer.
Born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Johnson sang
and played with blues artists Magic Sam,
Billy Boy Arnold,
and Howlin' Wolf in the 1950s, before recording with
Jimmy Reed for
Vee-Jay in 1959. He made his solo debut that same year with Federal, a
subsidiary of King Records of Cincinnati, backed by
Freddie King on
He then began recording for Twinight Records of Chicago in the mid
1960s. Beginning with his first hit, Come On Sock It to Me in 1967,
Johnson dominated the label as both a hitmaker and producer. His song
Different Strokes, also from 1967, featured recently on the Ultimate
Breaks and Beats breakbeat compilation.
Like other black songwriters of the period, several of his records at
this time explored themes of African-American identity and social
problems in songs including Is It Because I'm Black, which reached
Number 11 in the R&B charts in 1969.
In 1971, Willie Mitchell brought Johnson to Hi Records, the two
recording three albums which spawned a number of singles. Produced in
Memphis with the Hi house band, these yielded music of power and
enduring value, including the hits We Did It, Back for a Taste of Your
Love and Take Me to the River, his biggest success, reaching Number 7 on
the R&B charts in 1975. However, at Hi Johnson was always to some extent
in Al Green's shadow commercially, if not artistically. Mitchell also
chose to use mainly in-house material rather than Johnson originals.
After the Hi years ended, Johnson produced two LPs for his own Shama
label, the latter of which (Ms. Fine Brown Frame, 1982) was picked up
for distribution by Boardwalk Records and produced Johnson's last hit
record, the title cut.
Around the mid-1980s, Johnson started a fast-food fish restaurant
business, and became semi-retired from performing, only making
occasional appearances at blues club gigs.
In 1992, Johnson found out that his song "Different Strokes" had been
sampled by number of rappers including Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, Kool
G Rap, Hammer, and the Geto Boys. Stimulated by this fact, he decided to
make a comeback in the music industry. In 1994, he released the album
Back in the Game on Delmark Records. The album featured the Hi rhythm
section and his youngest daughter Syleena Johnson.
Blues guitarist and singer Jimmy Johnson, and bassist Mack Thompson are
Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia