Marv Johnson Biography

Marvin Earl Johnson, 15 October 1938, Detroit, Michigan, USA, d. 16 May 1993, Columbia, South Carolina, USA. The gospel training that Johnson received as a teenager in the Junior Serenaders was a major influence on his early R&B releases. In 1958, he formed a partnership with the young Berry Gordy, who was then working as a songwriter and producer for Jackie Wilson. Gordy produced Johnson’s earliest releases on Kudo, and launched his Tamla label with Johnson’s single ‘Come To Me’, which became a hit when it was licensed to United Artists. Johnson remained with the label until 1965, scoring a run of chart entries in the early 60s with ‘You Got What It Takes’, ‘I Love The Way You Move’ and ‘Move Two Mountains’ - all produced by Gordy. Johnson’s tracks showcased his delicate tenor vocals against a female gospel chorus, and he maintained this style when he signed to Gordy’s Motown Records stable in 1965. His initial release on the Gordy Records label, the soul favourite ‘I Miss You Baby’, was a US hit, although it proved to be a false dawn. His subsequent US releases failed, and Johnson eventually abandoned his recording career in 1968. Ironically, the UK Tamla-Motown label chose this moment to revive Johnson’s 1966 recording ‘I’ll Pick A Rose For My Rose’, which became an unexpected Top 20 hit amidst a dramatic revival in the label’s popularity in Britain. Johnson quickly travelled to the UK to capitalize on this success, before retiring to become a sales executive at Motown. After almost two decades working behind the scenes in the music business, he returned to performing in 1987, touring with the ‘Sounds Of Motown’ package and re-recording his old hits for the Nightmare label. He was teamed with Carolyn Gill (of the Velvelettes) by record producer Ian Levine to release ‘Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing’ in 1987. He released Come To Me on Levine’s Motor City label. Johnson collapsed and died of a heart attack at a concert in South Carolina on 16 May 1993.

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

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