Johnnie Taylor

Biography

Johnnie Harrison Taylor (May 5, 1937 – May 31, 2000) was an American vocalist in a wide variety of genres, from gospel, blues and soul to pop, doo-wop and disco.

Taylor was born in Crawfordsville, Arkansas. As an adult, he had one release, "Somewhere to Lay My Head," on Chicago's Chance Records label in the 1950s, as part of the gospel group Highway QCs, which had been founded by a young Sam Cooke.

A few years later, after Cooke had established his independent SAR Records, Taylor signed on and recorded "Rome Wasn't Built In A Day" in 1962. However, SAR Records quickly became defunct after Cooke's death in 1964.

In 1966, Taylor moved to Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was dubbed "The Philosopher of Soul". While there he recorded with the label's house band, Booker T. & the MGs. His hits included "I Had a Dream," "I've Got to Love Somebody's Baby" (both written by the team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter) and most notably "Who's Making Love," which reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1968. "Who's Making Love" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

During his tenure at Stax, he became an R&B star, with over a dozen chart successes, such as "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone," which reached No. 23 on the Hot 100 chart, "Cheaper to Keep Her" (Mack Rice) and record producer Don Davis's penned "I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)," which reached No. 11 on the Hot 100 chart. "I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)" also sold in excess of one million units, and was awarded gold disc status by the R.I.A.A. in October 1973.

After Stax folded in the mid 1970s, Taylor switched to Columbia Records, where he made his best known hit, "Disco Lady", in 1976. "Disco Lady" was the first certified platinum single by the RIAA.

After a brief stint at Beverly Glen Records, Taylor signed with Malaco Records after the label's founder Tommy Couch and producing partner Wolf Stephenson heard him sing at blues singer, Z. Z. Hill's funeral in the spring of 1984.

Backed by members of The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section as well as in-house veterans like former Stax keyboardist Carson Whitsett and guitarist/bandleader Bernard Jenkins, Malaco gave Taylor the type of recording freedom that Stax had given him in the late 1960s and early 1970s, enabling him to record ten albums for the Malaco label in his sixteen year stint.

In 1996, Taylor's eighth album for Malaco, “Good Love!,” made it to Number One on Billboard's Blues chart (#15 R&B), and was the biggest record in Malaco's history. Taylor's final song was "Soul Heaven," in which he dreamed of being at a concert featuring deceased soul music icons Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, and MGs drummer Al Jackson, among others.

Taylor was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1999.

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