Soul And / Or Related Artists
syl johnson

Syl Johnson

b. Sylvester Thompson, 1st July 1936, Holly Springs, Mississippi, U.S.A.

d. 6th February 2022, Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.

Syl Johnson was a Blues & Soul singer and music producer.

In the 1950’s, Syl sang and played with several Blues artists, including Magic Sam, Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells and Howlin' Wolf.

Syl’s own recording career began with Jimmy Reed at Vee Jay Records in 1959.

He also recorded with the Federal Records imprint in Cincinnati.

Syl Johnson

In the Sixties, Syl recorded at Twinight Records in Chicago, where he had his first hit with ‘Come On Sock It to Me’ in 1967.

He began producing at the label, releasing ‘Is It Because I’m Black’ (Number 11 in the R&B charts in 1969).

In 1971, Willie Mitchell brought Syl to his Hi Records imprint.

He recorded three albums and a number of singles with the Hi records house band.

Syl JohnsonSyl JohnsonSyl JohnsonSyl Johnson

dresses too short - 1968 / it is because i'm black - 1970 / back for a taste of your love - 1973 / diamond in the rough - 1974

Syl’s releases featured the hits ‘We Did It’, ‘Back for a Taste of Your Love’ and ‘Take Me to the River’, (which reached Number 7 on the R&B charts in 1975).

After he left Hi, Syl recorded two LPs for his own label Shama Records.

Syl JohnsonSyl JohnsonSyl JohnsonSyl Johnson

total explosion - 1975 / uptown shakedown - 1979 / brings out the blues in me - 1980 / ms. fine brown frame - 1982

These included a surprise hit ‘Ms. Fine Brown Frame’, released on Boardwalk Records in 1982).


The single was his last hit record.

During the Eighties, Syl set up a fast-food fish restaurant business, and became semi-retired from performing, performing at blues clubs, infrequently.

In the Nineties, Syl learned his classic song ‘Different Strokes’ had been sampled by number of rappers including Wu-Tang Clan, MC Hammer, and the Geto Boys.

He released the album ‘Back in the Game’ for the Delmark Records imprint.

The album featured the the Hi rhythm section and his daughter Syleena Johnson.

The Blues artists, Jimmy Johnson and Mack Thompson are Syl’s brothers.

Syl Johnson died, in February 2022 at, the age of 85.

Syl JohnsonSyl JohnsonSyl JohnsonSyl Johnson

suicide blues - 1983 / foxy brown - 1988 / bridge to legacy - 1998 / talkin' about chicago - 1999

Real Player


Dresses Too Short (Twinight Records 1968)

Is It Because Im Black? (Winight Records 1970)

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

Diamond In The Rough (Hi Records 1974)

Total Explosion (Hi Records 1976)

Uptown Shakedown (Shama Records 1979)

Brings Out The Blues In Me (Shama Records 1980)

Ms Fine Brown Frame (Boardwalk Records 1983)

Suicide Blues (Shama Records 1984)

Foxy Brown (Shama Records 1988)

Back In The Game (Delmark Records 1994)

top of the page

SoulwalkingStart HereThe ArtistsListen Out ForThe ChartBeen MissedRespectReal AudioOpinionNetworkJazz & FusionLinksMotown