Soul and Blues giant Syl Johnson dies at 85

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    We received the bad news this afternoon about the passing of soul music legend Syl Johnson via a statement from his family posted on Facebook:

    It is with extreme sadness that our family announces the passing of Soul & Blues Hall of Fame Legend, Grammy-Nominated Singer, Syl Johnson (born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, MS). Dad, Brother, Grandfather, Great Grandfather, Uncle, Friend & Artist, he lived his life as a singer, musician, and entrepreneur who loved black music.

    One of the most sampled artists of our time, his music served as the soundtrack for some of our most poignant moments in history.

    We received the bad news this afternoon about the passing of soul music legend Syl Johnson via a statement from his family posted on Facebook:

    It is with extreme sadness that our family announces the passing of Soul & Blues Hall of Fame Legend, Grammy-Nominated Singer, Syl Johnson (born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, MS). Dad, Brother, Grandfather, Great Grandfather, Uncle, Friend & Artist, he lived his life as a singer, musician, and entrepreneur who loved black music.

    One of the most sampled artists of our time, his music served as the soundtrack for some of our most poignant moments in history.

    A fiery, fierce, fighter, always standing for the pursuit of justice as it related to his music and sound, he will truly be missed by all who crossed his path. His catalog and legacy will be remembered as impeccable and a historical blueprint to all who experience it.

    To his fans around the world, he loved you all. A lover of music and a Chicago icon, Syl Johnson lived his life unapologetically.

    With the passing of his brother, Jimmy Johnson (Blues Hall of Famer) a few days ago, our Dad has gone on to heaven to be with him and many of his loved ones and fellow musicians who have passed as well. The world has lost two musical giants.

    At this time, we ask for your prayers for our family, his friends, and fans, and we ask that you continue to play his music and share the remarkable legacy he’s made in music.

    The Mississippi-born Johnson was a legend in the soul and blues communities as a singer and producer, but also as the patriarch of the talented Johnson family. His daughter Syleena Johnson is a much lauded SoulTracks Readers’ Choice Award winner and his daughter Syleecia has fashioned an important career in music and business. His brother Jimmy Johnson was also a noted musician.

    Syl Johnson began his career playing blues in Chicago, and had a big hit with “Come On Sock It To Me” in 1967, drifting off of the popular comedic saying of the time. His move to Memphis’s Hi Records a decade later brought even more success, including the top 10 “Take Me To The River.” But Johnson was also known for his socially conscious music, in many ways years ahead of his time, including the influential "Is It Because I'm Black."

    While Johnson continued to perform his bluesy, thoughtful soul for decades after his commercial peak, he found new popularity through samples of his work by hip-hop artists ranging from Wu-Tang Clan to MC Hammer.  The renewed interest in his work led to family album projects with both Syleena and Jimmy, and continued work even as he passed his 80th birthday.

    We send our condolences to the Johnson family and remember this musical giant for his contribution to multiple generations of music fans.

     
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