He was born in Salt Lake City and discovered at the age of five by a teacher who lived across the street. He imitated whatever he heard her play, and she did not appreciate it.
He was known as an interpreter of French piano music and recorded the complete piano works of Gabriel Fauré.
He was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of music degree from the The Hartt School, University of Hartford in 1993.
Johannesen was married to the Juilliard-trained composer Helen Taylor (whose works for piano were among his recordings) from 1943 until her death in an automobile accident in 1950. He was married to his second wife, the cellist Zara Nelsova (with whom he sometimes performed), from 1963 until their divorce in 1973. From his first marriage, he had a son, David Johannesen.
He died in 2005 at the age of 83 in Germany, where he had been visiting friends. The New York Times reported that he died "near Munich" and another source said "near Garmisch in Bavaria." In their obituaries, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Associated Press, citing his lifelong friend Elisabeth von Rummelhoff, reported that he died in Berlin. The Mormon Artists Group (directed by Glen Nelson), with which he was a collaborator, also announced that he died in Berlin.
After his death David Johannesen completed the manuscript of Grant Johannesen's autobiography, wrote its foreword, and worked together with Peter DeLafosse at the University of Utah Press to shepherd the book "Journey of an American Pianist" through its publication in 2007.
Johannesen was a Latter-day Saint.
- "Grant Johannesen - Obituaries - News". The Independent. 2005-04-30. Retrieved 2013-02-24.
- Delta Omicron
- Musical Compositions by LDS Composers in NYC Collections
- David Dubal interview with Grant Johannesen, WNCN-FM, November 19, 1982 on YouTube
- David Dubal interview with Grant Johannesen, WNCN-FM, November 26, 1982 on YouTube