Al Johnson

The career of soul singer, songwriter, producer, arranger, and keyboardist Al Johnson crosses six decades. It dates back to the '60s, when he cut a promo-only solo single for the South Camp label and, while attending Howard University in Washington, D.C., formed the group that became the Unifics. Discovered by Guy Draper and signed to Kapp, the Unifics' first two charting singles, "Court of Love" (arranged by Donny Hathaway) and "The Beginning of My End," hit Billboard's R&B chart in 1968 and peaked within the Top Ten. After the Unifics released an album and split, Johnson worked with Tata Vega, Special Delivery, Positive Change, and Deniece Williams, among others. He thrived during the tail-end of the '70s and the early '80s, a period that involved a pair of solo albums, Peaceful (1978) and Back for More (1980), along with a Top 30 R&B hit (a duet with Jean Carn, the title cut from the latter album), and contributions to Norman Connors' Take It to the Limit, highlighted by his work on a cover of Lou Courtney's "I Don't Need Nobody Else." Later in the '80s, the likes of Carn, the Whispers, and a handful of Prelude label sessions benefited from Johnson's involvement. During the 2000s, the Unifics reunited and recorded a second album. In 2013, Johnson died suddenly. Him or Me, a collection of previously unreleased material recorded with Derrick "Doc" Pearson, was released the following year. ~ Andy Kellman

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