Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Syl Johnson sang and played with blues artists Magic Sam, Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells and Howlin' Wolf in the 1950s, before recording with Jimmy Reed for Vee-Jay in 1959. He made his solo debut that same year with Federal, a subsidiary of King Records of Cincinnati, backed by Freddie King on guitar.

He then began recording for Twinight Records of Chicago in the mid 1960s. Beginning with his first hit, Come On Sock It to Me in 1967, Johnson dominated the label as both a hitmaker and producer. With a hard-hitting, funk and blues drenched, west side style, Johnson became a leading figure in the Chicago soul scene at the end of the 60s.

The track below, "Different Strokes," might be Syl's best known jam--it starts with a massive break and continues to scorch everything in its path. A true funk classic, "Different Strokes" has been sampled by hundreds of hip-hop artists (Boogie Down Productions, Wu-Tang Clan, N.W.A., and Public Enemy, just to name a few) and continues to light up dancefloors the world over.

Boogie Down Productions' "Criminal Minded":

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