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BeatTips MusicStudy: Syl Johnson, the Soulful Belter

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Behind Al Green at Hi Records, But Syl Johnson Just as Valuable to Hip hop/Rap Music

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

Blues-Soulman, songwriter, and producer Syl Johnson is an ironic example of how being second on the depth chart can sometimes work out for the best. In front of him at Hi Records was a more well-known legend: Al Green. Even still, Johnson carved out his own name and niche.

Like Green, Syl Johnson had an arresting, soulful sound. But if Al Green was the crooner, Syl Johnson was the belter. Syl Johnson distinguished himself through a vocal delivery that was piercing, and way, way out front, a style no doubt owed to his blues roots. His seminal hit, “Different Strokes,” (which he recorded at the age of 41), offers a glimpse at the powerful phrasing that could have made him as big–if not bigger than–Al Green, had either been on a different label.

Still, for my deep diggin’, I prefer the virtual obscurity of Syl Johnson over the popularity (and most often sampled) Al Green…

And if you didn’t know Syl Johnson, check out a couple of these cuts. Listen, and see if anything sounds familiar.

For educational purposes…

Syl Johnson – “Wind Blow Her Back My Way”

Syl Johnson – “I Hate I Walked Away”

Syl Johnson – “Could I Be Falling Love”


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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual