Saturday, October 26, 2013

Passings: Al Johnson of the Unifics (1948 - 2013)

Al Johnson, who reached the R&B top forty four times in the late 60's with the group The Unifics, has died at the age of 65.

His friend and sometimes singing parter Jean Carn wrote the following through the site SoulTracks.com:

I received a message and text earlier from Jeff Majors saying that my Friend and favorite Voice, Al Johnson passed away this morning.

A Fan since The Beginning of My End, I've been recalling the many, many times I've had the pleasure and privilege to share the mic and the stage and commiserate in the studio with Al.

Our first recording was I'm Back For More which has been sampled many times and was covered, beautifully by Bobby Womack and Lulu.

His orchestral arrangements for Artists like The Whispers, were beyond Genius.

Thanks Al, for composing the title tune for my Motown album, Trust Me and We've Got Some Catching Up To Do.

Thank you Jeff Majors for bringing Al and me together for what has become our last onstage performance.

My Love and Prayers are with Al's beautiful Wife and Family.

Right now, I simply can't imagine Music existing without the Voice that lovingly brought us The 23rd Psalm.

Al Johnson, your incomparable Spirit will live on in the gigantic space that you occupy in my heart.

Rest in Peace, Beloved Musical Warrior..
Johnson formed the group Al & the Vikings in 1966 while attending Howard University in Washington, DC. In their first year together, they changed their names to the Unique Five and, finally, the Unifics, while gathering a large following around the capitol area.

After a time of many personnel changes, the Unifics hooked up with manager Guy Draper who had them signed to Kapp Records.  Their first single, Court of Love, was released in 1968 going to Number 3 on the R&B singles and 25 on the Hot 100.  They followed the next year with three more chart hits, The Beginning of the End (1969 / #9 R&B / #36 Pop), It's a Groovy World! (1969 / #27 R&B / #97 Pop) and Toshisumasu (1969 / #36 R&B).

The Unifics broke up in 1972 and Johnson moved in the direction of songwriting and producing, working with the likes of Peabo Bryson, the Whispers, the Dells and Norman Connors. In 1978, he returned to recording with the solo album Peaceful but it was his work with Connors that brought him back to the charts.  Johnson first sang with Connors on the album Invitation (1979) and, the next year, he recorded the song I'm Back For More with Jean Carn for Connors' album Back For More. That single went to number 26 on the R&B chart with the followup, I've Got My Second Wind going to 58.

Johnson continued his writing and production through the 80's and 90's and, in 2004, reformed the Unifics with original member Tom Fauntleroy, releasing the album Unifics Return.

For more on Johnson, go to SoulTracks.com.

3 comments:

Anonymous,  October 27, 2013 at 12:58 PM  

I am so sad to hear that Uncle Al passed. I had the pleasure to work with him at Cue Recording Studio. He was amazing and his musical talents were effortless. I will treasure the memories. R.I.P. Uncle Al

Love you,

Miracle Thomas

gg,  October 27, 2013 at 2:21 PM  

What a wonderful, funny, charismatic and talented individual. Al Johnson was a real entertainer and had a true commitment to his music and his fans. I am glad I had the opportunity to meet him and experience the soul of his music. My favorite song Al did was "Peaceful". Rest in peace my friend. Your contagious smile and laughter will always live in our hearts and our spirits.

kay,  October 28, 2013 at 11:23 PM  

What a great guy. He had a wonderful voice and a great outgoing personality. He will truly be missed. However, his music and memory will live on forever in my heart and so many others !!!

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