Chicago soul and blues legend Syl Johnson has died at age 85 according to a statement his family released. Johnson started his career in the ’50s performing with Chicago blues luminaries like Junior Wells and Howlin Wolf. The ’60s was the time when he came into his own as a solo artist with his first hit record “Come On Sock It To Me.” The much-sampled “Different Strokes” and the timely social reflection “Is It Because I’m Black” were written and released by the time the decade was over. A move to Hi Records in 1971 thanks to Willie Mitchell produced three collaborative albums and the essential “Take Me To The River.” He had his last hit record in the ’80s with “Ms. Fine Brown Frame.” The hip-hop sample gave Johnson a sort of comeback thanks to the Wu-Tang Clan, Jay-Z and many others. Johnson sued several hip-hop artists for using his music without compensating him. Rza, who produced and co-founded the Wu-Tang Clan, told Johnson of his fandom for his work and kept his promise to pay him.
In addition to Johnson resurfacing in rap music in the ’90s he started recording with his daughter Syleena Johnson. They would work together multiple times with him even appearing on R&B Divas to offer his daughter support before a performance. In 2017, Syleena worked with her dad on her Rebirth Of Soul album of covers. Syl produced the album, picked the songs and together they revisited “Is It Because I’m Black.” His voice was recently featured on the opening of Kanye Wests DONDA album. Johnson passed six days after his brother Jimmy Johnson died on January 31st. Jimmy aged 93 was a global blues star who found recognition later in life like his younger brother.