Classics The Brothers Johnson – Ain’t We Funkin Now (A&M)
Louis Johnson left behind him an incomparable legacy in the history of Disco/Funk music. Remembered as one of the best bass players of all time, he stands among the ones who have introduced the slapping technique. A typical way of playing that would revolutionize Funk but also Jazz fusion. Just like Larry Graham and Marcus Miller did on their respective sides.
He got his signature sound from the StingRay. An electric bass guitar introduced by Music Man which Leo Fender especially designed for him back in 1976 to first use and promote.
One of the most brilliant illustrations of his art being given on the Quincy Jones produced ‘Ain’t We Funkin Now’, taken from the Brothers Johnson‘s ‘Blam!’ album which saw the light back in 1978. Featuring luminaries such as Gwen Guthrie, Patti Austin and Yolanda McCullough on backing vocals among others.
Hailing from Los Angeles, CA, George and Louis Johnson formed the Johnson Three Plus One while at school. The third being their elder brother, Tommy. And the Plus One, cousin Alex Weir. As they evolved, they started as a backing band for luminaries such as Bobby Womack and The Supremes. Meanwhile, George and Louis joined Billy Preston‘s band for some time before contributing to the recording of Quincy Jones‘s ‘Mellow Madness’ in 1975. The Dude inviting them to tour in Japan before producing their debut-album – ‘Look Out For #1’ – the year after. An album which spanned the classic ‘Get The Funk Out Ma Face’. But also ‘I’ll Be Good To You’ which Jones re-recorded 13 years later with Ray Charles and Chaka Khan.
From then, and along with Quincy Jones, The Brothers Johnson would score an impressive string of classics. From ‘Strawberry Letter #23’ to ‘Ride O-Rocket’ and ‘Ain’t We Funkin Now’. Then ‘Light Up The Night’ and ‘Stomp!’ which is probably their most famous one. With Louis also playing bass on numerous Quincy Jones‘s productions. Beginning with Michael Jackson‘s album ‘Off The Wall’ and ‘Thriller’.
Louie and George parted ways in 1982, after the release of their ‘Winners’ album featuring the unsung ‘Caught Up’. Meanwhile A&M released a compilation of their classics – ‘Blast’ – that same year. The brothers would regularly reunite though, putting out the ‘Out Of Control’ album in 1984. Then ‘Kickin” which would be their very last, 4 years later.
The least one can say is that Louis and George‘s solo careers didn’t reach their expectations at the end. Louis recording one single – ‘Kinky’ – on Capitol back in 1985 from an album – ‘Evolution’ – which only got released in Europe. Meanwhile George released ‘Back Against The Wall’ the same year on Quincy Jones‘s Qwest label. A single from an album he recorded that never saw the light.
Louis Johnson was sadly found dead at his home in Las Vegas, NV on May 21, 2015. The cause of death was gastro intestinal bleed of the esophagus.
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