Syl Johnson

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Syl Johnson

Born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Johnson sang and played with blues artists Magic Sam, Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells 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 guitar.

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. Several more new albums followed before he became inactive again following an album cut with his brother Jimmy Johnson titled Two Johnsons Are Better Than One in 2002

Album Discography

"Dresses Too Short" (Twinight 1969)

1. Dresses Too Short
2. I Can Take Care Of Business
3. Different Strokes
4. Soul Drippin'
5. Fox Hunting On The Weekend
6. Ode To Soul Man
7. Come On Sock It To Me
8. I'll Take Those Skinny Legs
9. Try Me
10. Same Kind Of Thing
11. I've Got The Real Thing
12. Sorry 'Bout Dat!

"Is It Because I'm Black" (Twinight 1970)

1. Is It Because I'm Black
2. Come Together
3. Together, Forever
4. Concrete Reservation
5. Black Balloons
6. Walk A Mile In My Shoes
7. I'm Talkin' 'Bout Freedom
8. Right On

"Back For A Taste Of Your Love" (Hi Records 1973)

1. Feelin' Frisky
2. Back For A Taste Of Your Love
3. I'm Yours
4. I Let A Good Girl Go
5. Anyway The Wind Blows
6. You Don't Know Me
7. We Did It
8. Wind, Blow Her Back My Way
9. I Hate I Walked Away
10. The Love You Left Behind

"Diamond In The Rough" (Hi Records 1974)

1. Let Yourself Go
2. Don't Do It
3. I Want To Take You Home (To See Mama)
4. Could I Be Falling In Love
5. Stuck In Chicago
6. Diamond In The Rough
7. Keeping Down Confusion
8. Please, Don't Give Up On Me
9. Music To My Ears
10. I Hear The Love Chimes

"Total Explosion" (Hi Records 1975)

1. I Only Have Love
2. Bustin' Up Or Bustin' Out
3. Star Bright Star Lite
4. Whatch What You Do To Me
5. Steppin' Out
6. Take Me To The River
7. It Ain't Easy
8. 'Bout To Make Me Leave Home
9. That's Just My Luck

"Uptown Shakedown" (Hi Records 1979)

1 Mystery Lady
2 Let's Dance For Love
3 Gimme Little Sign
4 You're The Star Of The Show
5 Blue Water
6 Who's Gonna Love You
7 Otis Redding Medley

"Brings Out The Blues In Me" (Shama 1980)

1 Brings Out The Blues In Me
2 How You Need To Be Loved
3 Last Night Was The Night
4 Got My Eyes On You
5 Liberated Lady
6 Sock It To Me
7 Is It Because I'm Black
8 Crazy People

"Ms. Fine Brown Frame" (Shama 1982)

1. Ms. Fine Brown Frame
2. Keep On Loving Me
3. They Can't See Your Good Side
4. Groove Me
5. Sweet Thing
6. You Don't Have To Go
7. It Ain't Easy

"Suicide Blues" (Isabel 1983)

1. Medley: If I Had A Hammer & This Little Light Of Mine & Amen & Baby Workout
2. Before You Accuse Me
3. Take Me To The River
4. The Blues In Me
5. Sock It To Me
6. Got To Make A Change
7. Crazy Man

Sylvester Johnson "Foxy Brown" (Shama 1988)

1 Tripping On Your Love
2 Love Baby
3 Here We Go
4 Gimme Some (I Want A Taste Of Fonk)
5 Do You Know What Love Is
6 Foxy Brown
7 They Can't See Your Good Side
8 Ms. Fine Brown Frame

"Stuck In Chicago" (Demon 1989)

1 Watch What You Do To Me
2 Diamond In The Rough
3 I Only Have Love
4 Bustin' Up Or Bustin' Out
5 Struck In Chicago
6 Keeping Down Confusion
7 'Bout To Make Me Leave Home
8 Take Me To The River
9 Music To My Ears
10 Steppin' Out
11 Could I Be Falling In Love
12 It Ain't Easy
13 That's Just My Luck
14 Star Bright, Star Lite

"Back In The Game" (Delmark 1994)

1. Back In The Game
2. I Like Your Style
3. I Can't Stop
4. Please Don't Give Up On Me
5. Keep On Loving Me
6. Take Me To The River
7. Ghetto Woman
8. Watch What You Do To Me
9. Dipped In The Water (featuring Syleena Thompson)
10. Driving Wheel
11. Any Way The Wind Blows
12. Clean Up Man
13. I Will Rise Again
14. All Of Your Love

"The A Sides" (Hi Records 1994)

1 The Love You Left Behind
2 I Wanna Satisfy Your Every Need
3 We Did It
4 Back for a Taste of Your Love
5 I'm Yours
6 Let Yourself Go
7 I Want to Take You Home (To See Mama)
8 Take Me to the River
9 I Only Have Love
10 Star Bright, Star Lite
11 'Bout to Make Me Leave Home
12 Fonk You
13 Stand by Me
14 Mystery Lady

Syl & Syleen Johnson "This Time Together By Father And Daughter" (Mardi Gras 1995)

1. Blues Song
2. Lover Man
3. Sweet Love Hang Over
4. Keep On Loving Me
5. I Needed Some Body
6. They Can't See Your Good Side
7. A Time For Us
8. Sister
9. Ms. Fine Brown Frame
10.I'm Woman
11.Trippin
12.Different Strokes
13.Piece Of The Rock
14.Here We Go
15.Goodie Goodie Good Times

"Twinight & Twilight: Masters Collection" (Collectables 1996)

1. Come on Sock It to Me
2. Try Me
3. Different Strokes
4. Sorry 'Bout Dat!
5. Ode to Soul Man
6. I'll Take Those Skinny Legs
7. I Feel an Urge
8. Try Me
9. Dresses Too Short
10. I Can Take Care of Business
11. I Can Take Care of Homework
12. Is It Because I'm Black?
13. Let Them Hang High
14. Concrete Reservation
15. Together, Forever
16. One-Way Ticket
17. Thank You Baby
18. Get Ready

"The Best Of On Hi Records" (Hi Records 1996)

1. I Want to Take You Home (To See Mama)
2. Any Way the Wind Blows
3. Music to My Ears
4. Star Bright, Starlite
5. Please Don't Give up on Me
6. 'Bout to Make Me Leave Home
7. Stuck in Chicago
8. Wind, Blow Her Back My Way
9. Let Yourself Go
10. The Love You Left Behind
11. I Wanna Satisfy Your Every Need
12. Take Me to the River
13. Steppin' Out
14. Could I Be Falling in Love
15. We Did It
16. I'm Yours
17. Watch What You Do to Me
18. Anyone But You
19. Back for a Taste of Your Love
20. Feelin' Frisky
21. I Hear the Love Chimes
22. I Only Have Love

"Bridge To A Legacy" (Antone's 1998)

1. Who's Still In Love
2. I Been Missin' U
3. Half A Love
4. Unconditional Love
5. Midnight Woman
6. Piece Of The Rock
7. I Don't Know Why
8. Let's Get It On Again
9. They Can't See Your Good Side
10. Sexy Wayz

"The Hi Records Masters" (Hi Records 1998)

1. Back For A Taste Of Your Love
2. We Did It
3. I'm Yours
4. Don't Do It
5. I Hear The Love Chimes
6. Anyway The Wind Blows
7. The Love You Left Behind
8. I Want To Take You Home (To See Mama)
9. Feelin' Frisky
10. Let Yourself Go
11. I Let A Good Girl Go
12. Wind, Blow Her Back My Way
13. You Don't Know Me
14. I Hate I Walked Away
15. Take Me To The River

"Back For A Taste: The Syl Johnson Story 1971-1978" (Hi Records 1998)

Disc: 1
1. Love You Left Behind
2. I Wanna Satisfy Your Every Need
3. We Did It
4. Back for a Taste of Your Love
5. I'm Yours
6. I Let a Good Girl Go
7. Any Way the Wind Blows
8. You Don't Know Me
9. Feelin' Frisky
10. Wind, Blow Her Back My Way
11. I Hate I Walked Away
12. Music to My Ears
13. Let Yourself Go
14. I Want to Take You Home (To See Mama)
15. Take Me to the River
16. Don't Do It
17. Could I Be Falling in Love
18. Diamond in the Rough
19. Stuck in Chicago
20. Keeping Down Confusion
21. Please Don't Give up on Me
22. I Hear the Love Chimes
23. I Only Have Love
24. Star Bright, Starlite
Disc: 2
1. 'Bout to Make Me Leave Home
2. Bustin' Up or Bustin' Out
3. Watch What You Do to Me
4. Steppin' Out
5. It Ain't Easy
6. That's Just My Luck
7. Funk You
8. Stand by Me
9. Mystery Lady
10. Otis Redding Medley: Respect/Wholesale Love/Snatch a Little ...
11. You're the Star of the Show
12. Blue Water
13. Let's Dance for Love
14. Gimme Little Sign
15. Who's Gonna Love You?

"Talkin' About Chicago" (Delmark 1999)

1. Come On With It
2. Cheryl
3. Sweet Dynamite!
4. Talkin' Bout Chicago
5. Diff'rent Strokes
6. I'm Back Into You
7. Different Kind Of Man
8. Surrounded
9. Caribbean Beach
10.Get Free-Call Me
11.Trade Secret
12.Finger Lickin' Good
13.All Night Long
14.Woo-Wee!

"The Hands Of Time" (Hep' Me 2000)

1. Tell Me in the Morning
2. Hands of Time
3. Beyond the Finish Line
4. Talk to Me
5. Wake up Cryin'
6. Superwoman
7. You're Number One
8. Listen to Me Closely
9. Touch of Your Love
10. Funky Situation
11. Wake up Cryin'

"The Complete Syl Johnson On Hi Records" (Hi Records 2000)

1. Back For A Tast Of Your Love
2. Im Yours
3. I Let A Good Girl Go
4. Anyway The Wind Blows
5. You Dont Know Me
6. Feelin Frisky
7. We Did It
8. Wind Blow Her Back My Way
9. I Hate I Walked Away
10. The Love You Left Behind
11. Anyone But You (Bonus Track)
12. I Wanna Satisfy Your Every Need (Bonus Track)
13. Age Aint Nothing But A Number (Bonus Track)
14. Let Yourself Go
15. Dont Do It
16. I Want To Take You Home (To See Mama)
17. Could I Be Fallin In Love
18. Stuck In Chicago
19. Diamond In The Rough
20. Keepin Down Confusion
21. Please Dont Give Up On Me
22. Music To My Ears
23. I Hear The Love Chimes
24. I Only Have Love
25. Bustin Up Or Bustin Out
26. Star Bright Star Lite
27. Watch What You Do To Me
28. Steppin Out
29. Take Me To The River
30. It Aint Easy
31. Bout To Make Me Leave Home
32. Thats Just My Luck
33. Come On Home (Bonus Track)
34. Mystery Lady
35. Lets Dance For Love
36. Gimmie Little Sign
37. Youre The Star Of The Show
38. Blue Water
39. Whos Gonna Love You
40. Otis Redding Medley - Respect
41. Otis Redding Medley - Wholesale Love
42. Otis Redding Medley - Snatch A Little Piece
43. Otis Redding Medley - I Cant Turn You Loose
44. Otis Redding Medley - Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)
45. Otis Redding Medley - (Sittin On) The Dock Of The Bay
46. Fonk You
47. That Wiggle
48. Stand By Me
49. Mainsqueeze

"Two Johnsons Are Better Than One" (Evidence 2002)

1. Two Johnsons Are Better Than One
2. Uncomplicated Life
3. I Used To Be A Millionaire
4. Is It Because I'm Black
5. If I Wuz White
6. I Feel The Pain
7. Oprah
8. Ashes In The Ashtray
9. Dangerous
10. Let Her Go
11. Living The Life
12. I Can't Survive
13. Goodie Goodie Goodtime
14. Bottoms Up

"Straight Up" (P-Vine 2004)

1. Straight Up
2. Woman
3. Love To See You Dance
4. Wake Up Crying'
5. Theme Song
6. Money Scream
7. Driftin'
8. Ms. Fine Brown Frame
9. Forever
10. Super Serpent
11. You're The #1
12. You Changed My Mind
13. Mississippi Soul Queen
14. Easy Baby
15. Listen To Me Closely
16. Can't Nodody Stop Me Now
17. Goodie Goodie Good Times
18. Is It Because I'm Black

"Different Strokes (1967-1969)" (Twinight 2005)

"Is It Because I'm Black (1969-1971)" (Twinight 2006)

"Complete Mythology" (Numero Group 2010)

1. Teardrops
2. They Who Love
3. I've Got Love
4. Lonely Man
5. I Need Love
6. His Gift
7. I've Got To Find My Baby
8. (She's So Fine) I Just Gotta Make Her Mine
9. Little Sally Walker
10. I Resign From Your Love
11. I Wanna Know
12. Well Oh Well
13. Please Please Please
14. I'm Looking For My Baby
15. She's All Right
16. I Know
17. A Half Love
18. I've Been Talked About
19. This Heart Of Mine
20. Falling In Love Again
21. I've Got To Get Over
22. Straight Love, No Chaser
23. Surrounded
24. Try Me (45 Version)
25. Half a Love
26. Do You Know What Love Is
27. The Love I Found In You
28. Do You Know What Love Is (Alternate Version)
29. Things Ain't Right
30. Come Sock It To Me
31. Different Strokes
32. Sorry 'Bout Dat!
33. Ode To Soul Man
34. I'll Take Those Skinny Legs
35. Send Me Some Lovin'
36. Soul Drippin'
37. Fox Hunting On The Weekend
38. Try Me
39. I Feel An Urge
40. I Resign
41. Love Condition
42. My Funky Band
43. Sockin' Soul Power
44. Double Wammy (Abaccadaba)
45. Dresses Too Short
46. I Can Take Care Of Business
47. Same Kind of Thing
48. I've Got The Real Thing
49. Take Me Back
50. I Can Take Care of Homework
51. Let Them Hang High
52. Don't Give It Away
53. Going To The Shack
54. Is It Because I'm Black
55. Concrete Reservation
56. Together Forever
57. Come Together
58. Black Balloons
59. Walk A Mile In My Shoes
60. I'm Talkin' Bout Freedom
61. Right On
62. Everybody Needs Love
63. One Way Ticket To Nowhere
64. Kiss By Kiss
65. Thank You Baby
66. We Do It Together
67. Try My Love
68. That's Why
69. Get Ready
70. The Way You Do The Things You Do
71. Annie Got Her Pants Power
72. Wouldn't Change My Lady
73. All I Need Is Someone Like You
74. Let's Start All Over Again
75. Hot Pant's Lady
76. Wiggle In Your Hips
77. Your Love Is Good For Me
78. Trying To Get To You
79. Soul Strokes
80. Hot Pants Annie, Pt. 2
81. Soul Heaven

"Syl Johnson & Melodie Whitlle (featuring Sylena Johnson)" (Twilight 2013)

1. I'm With You Too
2. The Thrill Is Gone
3. Mr. Invisible
4. Just Make Love To You
5. There'll Come A Time
6. Goodie Goodie Good Times
7. Can't Nobody Stop Me Now
8. Mellow Down Easy
9. I'm Just A Freak For You
10. Turn Back The Hands Of Time
11. Is It Because I'm Black
12. Ms. Fine Brown Frame
13. Different Strokes (Original Cut)
14. Forever
15. Loving On The Run
16. Baby I'm Scared Of You

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