Syl Johnson, a soul and blues singer out of Chicago, has reportedly died. Johnson’s 1967 hit “Different Strokes” was used by a number of Hip-Hop notables via sampling.
Local outlet CBS Chicago reports that the family of Johnson issued a public statement regarding the passing, which occurred this past Sunday (Feb. 6).
From CBS Chicago:
Hall of Fame Legend, Syl Johnson (born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, MS). Dad, Brother, Grandfather, Great Grandfather, Uncle, Friend & Artist, he lived his life as a singer, musician, and entrepreneur who loved black music,” the family said in a statement.
As the outlet notes, Johnson’s brother, Blues guitarist and singer Jimmy Johnson passed away six days prior at the age of 93. Johnson was born on July 1, 1936, in Holly Springs, Miss., and moved to Chicago in the 1950s to jumpstart his career.
Johnson is the father of Chicago singer and songwriter Syleena Johnson.
While Johnson’s catalog may best be known by true fans of Soul and Blues, his works have been sampled heavily in the world of Hip-Hop. The tracks “Different Strokes” and “Is It Because I’m Black” have appeared in some form in dozens of tracks from Kanye West, Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan, and more.
In a 2010 Village Voice interview, Johnson, who legally went after music acts that sampled his work without gaining proper clearance, shared that he enjoyed the Wu-Tang Clan sampling his work and apologized for suing West Coast mainstays Cypress Hill. Johnson also shared in the interview that DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince AKA Will Smith was the first time he noticed his music being used in the Hip-Hop arena.
Syl Johnson was 85.