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Passings: Michael Johnson (1944 - 2017)

by VVN Music

Michael Johnson, the singer-songwriter who had hits with Bluer Than Blue and This Night Won't Last Forever before crossing to the country charts, died on Tuesday (June 25) in Minneapolis after a long illness.  He was 72.

Born in Alamosa, CO and growing up in Denver, Johnson started playing guitar at the age of 13 and studied music at Colorado State University; however, he never completed school after winning a talent contest that gave him a contract with Epic Records.

In 1966, Michael moved to Barcelona, Spain to study classical guitar at the Liceu Conservatory and, when he returned to the U.S. he joined the band New Society with Randy Sparks.  The following year, he joined the Chad Mitchell Trio and co-wrote music with another member of the group, John Denver.

When the trio and the subsequent Denver, Boise & Johnson broke up, he turned to acting, appearing in the off-Broadway and touring productions of Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris before returning to recording in 1971 with Atco Records. Over the next six years, he released three albums (There Is a Breeze, For All You Mad Musicians and Ain't Dis Da Life) that were not big sellers but helped him build a solid reputation.

Finally, in 1978, Michael signed with EMI and released The Michael Johnson Album which included the hits Bluer Than Blue (1978 / #12 Pop / #1 Adult Contemporary) and his cover of Lerner & Lowe's Almost Like Being in Love (1978 / #28 Pop / #4 AC).

The next year, Johnson released the album Dialogue which included his third big hit, This Night Won't Last Forever (1979 / #19 Pop / #5 AC) but subsequent singles from that album and his next two releases barely touched the charts.

In 1985, Johnson signed with RCA and changed to a contemporary country style sending him on the second major phase of his career. Between 1986 and 1988, he scored six top ten country hits including the number 1's Give Me Wings and The Moon is Still Over Her Soulder.

After two albums on RCA, Michael moved to Atlantic who was not able to capitalize on his success over the last half-decade and his career slowed down considerably. Between 1995 and 2012, he released seven albums on seven different labels.

Johnson's website posted the news of his passing, saying:

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I share the sad news of Michael's passing Tuesday evening after a long illness.

Suzy Bogus wrote:

Just heard today of the passing of Michael Johnson. Such a great talent and fun guy to be around. I loved to watch his hands play the classical guitar. It was so natural for him. Chet Atkins and I recorded a beautiful song that he was writer on and Chet tried hard to give a nod to his playing in the intro and turn around. Remember "When She Smiled at Him"?

I'm sure I'm not the first to use the phrase "Bluer Than Blue" for how I feel.