Mon 7 Feb 2022

PBS was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of soul and R&B legend, Syl Johnson. 

We'll be paying tribute on air throughout the week on:

Mystic Brew - Tuesday 8 Feb at 9am

The Breakdown - Friday 11 Feb at 3pm

Boss Action replaying Syl Johnson's Studio 5 Live from 2011, originally aired on Soulgroove'66 - Saturday 12 Feb at 3pm

Blue Juice - Sunday 13 Feb at 11am


In the early 1950s Syl Johnson was associated with pioneers of blues music as we know it today. Magic Sam, Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells and Howlin’ Wolf all enlisted Syl to play on their records or jam with them live. After a decade of frequenting these circles, Chicago R&B and soul specialists Twinight Records recruited him to record with the label. 

It was the in the mid 1960s, with Martin Luther King’s speech still ringing in America’s ears and the Civil Rights Act freshly inked, that Syl Johnson’s single 'Come On Sock It to Me' became a hit. Sorry '‘Bout Dat' and 'Different Strokes' soon followed, making Syl Johnson the highest selling hitmaker and producer at Twinight Records. His track ‘Is It Because I’m Black’, which bluntly explored themes of the African-American identity and social issues, became his highest charting track whilst on the label. 

Soon, everyone wanted to be a part of Syl Johnson’s rise and he was quickly lured to join Hi Records, one of Memphis’ premier soul labels of the seventies. This is where Syl wrote his biggest success to date, 'Take Me to the River'. 

The love for Mr Johnson’s music continues strong today and has been reinvigorated by a new generation of youthful fans. In 1992 Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, The Fresh Prince and MC Hammer all sampled his song 'Different Strokes' which prompted Syl Johnson to return to the scene, releasing album Back in the Game in 1994. RZA offers high praise: “There are many great soul singers, but few have inspired hip-hop, from its early beginning to now, as much as Syl Johnson.” 

Vale Syl Johnson.