Johnnie Taylor Biography

5 May 1938, Crawfordsville, Arkansas, USA, d. 31 May 2000, Dallas, Texas, USA. Having left home at the age of 15, Taylor surfaced as part of several gospel groups, including the Five Echoes and the Highway QCs. In 1956 he joined the Soul Stirrers, replacing Sam Cooke on the latter’s recommendation. Taylor switched to secular music in 1961; releases on Cooke’s Sar and Derby labels betrayed his mentor’s obvious influence. In 1965 he signed with Stax Records and had several R&B hits before ‘Who’s Making Love’ (1968) crossed over into Billboard’s pop Top 5. Further releases, including ‘Take Care Of Your Homework’ (1969), ‘I Believe In You (You Believe In Me)’ and ‘Cheaper To Keep Her’ (both 1973), continued this success. The albums Wanted: One Soul Singer, Who’s Making Love... and Taylored In Silk best illustrate his lengthy period at Stax.

Taylor maintained his momentum on a move to Columbia Records. The felicitous 1976 US chart-topper, ‘Disco Lady’, was the first single to be certified platinum by the R.I.A.A., but although subsequent releases reached the R&B chart they fared less well with the wider audience. Following a short spell with Beverly Glen, the singer found an ideal niche on Malaco Records, a bastion for traditional southern soul. Taylor’s first album there, 1984’s This Is The Night, reaffirmed his gritty, blues-edged approach, a feature consolidated on Wall To Wall, Lover Boy and Crazy ’Bout You. In 1996, Taylor experienced something of a revival when his Malaco albumGood Love! became a huge hit and reached the top of the Billboard blues chart.

Taylor, dubbed the ‘Philosopher Of Soul’, had one of the great voices of the era: expressive graceful and smooth, and yet it is a mystery why he failed to reach the heights attained by the likes of Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Wilson Pickett.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.