Photo credits: Twinnight Records
Syl Johnson, one of the most sampled artists in music history, has died at the age of 85.
The renowned singer had a significant hidden influence on rap music. He sang R&B vocals on the legendary 1967 song ‘Different Strokes’ and a slew of other gold and platinum records.
Johnson was born in the Mississippi town of Holly Springs. The family of the R&B cult star released a statement on February 6 announcing his death. Johnson’s family and local medical examiners have yet to provide an official explanation for how he died.
“It is with great regret that our family announces Syl Johnson’s death from the Soul & Blues Hall of Fame (born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, MS). “As a father, brother, grandfather, great grandfather, uncle, friend, and artist, he spent his life as a singer, musician, and entrepreneur who cherished black music,” the family statement adds.
Johnson established himself in the music business throughout the 1960s and 1970s by recording soul and blues tunes for Chicago’s Twinight Records. His first album, “Dresses Too Short,” was issued on the modest label in 1968 and included the song “Different Strokes.” Numerous rap artists used the song as a sample. “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, “Shame on a N***a” by Wu-Tang Clan, and Eric B. & Rakim’s “I Know You Got Soul” all take from Johnson’s late 1960s smash.
According to WhoSampled, over 300 songs have been created utilizing a sample from Johnson’s original composition ‘Different Strokes.’ According to several news sites, this makes Syl Johnson’s chart-topping single one of the most influential in hip-hop.
Syl Johnson is the father of Syleena Johnson, a well-known singer, and songwriter who sang the chorus for Kanye West’s ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Award-winning song “All Falls Down.”
The RIAA recognized this song as double platinum.