Jesse Johnson (musician)

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Jesse Johnson
Birth name Jesse Woods Johnson
Born (1960-06-01) June 1, 1960 (age 57)
Origin Rock Island, Illinois
Genres Funk, rock, R&B
Occupation(s) Musician, composer
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1981–present
Labels Warner Bros.
Associated acts The Time
D'Angelo & The Vanguard
Da Krash
Paula Abdul
Kool Skool
TaMara and the Seen
Janet Jackson

Jesse Woods Johnson (born June 1, 1960) is an American musician best known as the guitarist in the original lineup of The Time (more recently known as The Original 7ven).[1]

Life and career[edit]

Johnson was born in Rock Island, Illinois. He moved to East St.Louis, Illinois at the age of nine and was raised by foster parents after his parents split up. At age 16 he moved back to Rock Island to live with his father Jackwood Johnson. Johnson began playing guitar when he was 15, honing his chops in local rock bands such as Treacherous Funk, Pilot, and Dealer, throughout his teens and early twenties. On a friend's recommendation, he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1981, where he met Morris Day and played briefly in Day's band which was called Enterprise. He then became the lead guitarist for the funk rock group, The Time.

Although Prince basically recorded the first two Time albums on his own with Morris Day, Johnson did contribute to the Vanity 6 project with a song called "Bite The Beat" co-written with Prince. On The Time's third album, Ice Cream Castle, Johnson contributed to the smash singles "The Bird" and "Jungle Love" (the group's most memorable single), which were helped by the popularity of the Purple Rain film.

However, at the height of The Time's popularity following Purple Rain, Johnson left the band and with the help of Manager Owen Husney signed a solo deal with A&M Records in 1984 and released Jesse Johnson's Revue the following year. This album featured two other former members of The Time in Johnson's backing band, keyboardist Mark Cardenas and bassist Jerry Hubbard. Three songs were released from the album: "Be Your Man", "Can You Help Me" and "I Want My Girl", the much-slept-on slow song about a fateful relationship. Then came the popular funk non-album outing "Free World". Shockadelica containing the hit "Crazay", the duet with Sly Stone, and Every Shade of Love followed over the next three years, building on the inventive, elaborate sound he forged with The Time. Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s Johnson also featured on the soundtracks to The Breakfast Club (contributing "Heart Too Hot To Hold", a duet with Stephanie Spruill), Pretty In Pink, Another 48 Hrs. and White Men Can't Jump.

Johnson has produced a wide variety of artists, most notable are TaMara and the Seen, After 7, Paula Abdul, Da Krash, Kool Skool, Janet Jackson, Debbie Allen, Cheryl Lynn, and Les Rita Mitsouko. By 1990 The Time reformed and issued Pandemonium, which was even more of a group effort than Ice Cream Castle. The album allowed Johnson to contribute his heavy hard rock guitar sound to several tracks.

After the band dissolved once again, Johnson remained in the background for several years, quietly contributing to soundtracks and other artists. His music he recorded for the film A Time To Kill was not released on the soundtrack but can be heard in the film. Finally in 1996, Johnson released another album, Bare My Naked Soul on the Dinosaur Entertainment label. The album was a departure from his funk-filled albums from the 1980s and instead verged into blues and hard rock. It is considered to be the true guitar album that Johnson fans had wanted from him since the beginning of his career.

Four years later, the highlights of Johnson's solo albums were collected on his Ultimate Collection, the album includes B-sides, 12" versions, album tracks, and one previously unreleased song called "Vibe".

After a nearly 14-year absence from the music scene, Johnson released a new double album Verbal Penetration Volumes 1 and 2 on October 27, 2009.

In February 2012, Johnson served as house guitarist behind a host of all-star blues musicians in the PBS special "In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues". Other members of the house band included Booker T. Jones, Bobby Ross Avila, Narada Michael Walden, Ernie Fields, Jr., Freddie Hendrix and Fred Wesley. Performers included B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Keb Mo, Trombone Shorty and Gary Clark, Jr..

More recently, he has been playing in D'Angelo's band The Vanguard.

Solo discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Year Album details Chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
1985 Jesse Johnson's Revue
  • Labels: A&M Records
43 8 700,000 (Worldwide Sales)
1986 Shockadelica
  • Labels: A&M Records
70 15 1,000,000 (Worldwide Sales)
1988 Every Shade of Love
  • Labels: A&M Records
79 26 500,000 (Worldwide Sales)
1996 Bare My Naked Soul
  • Labels: Dinosaur Entertainment Corporation
- -
2009 Verbal Penetration
  • Labels:
- -
2017 Down The Hard Road

Compilation albums[edit]


Year Title Chart positions
US Hot 100 US R&B US Club Play NZ UK
1985 "Be Your Man" 61 4 20 - -
"Can You Help Me" - 3 12 - -
"I Want My Girl" 76 7 - - -
"Let's Have Some Fun" - 87 - - -
1986 "Crazay" (featuring Sly Stone) 53 2 12 22 -
"She (I Can't Resist)" - 28 18 - 95
1987 "Baby Let's Kiss" - 23 - - -
"Black in America" - - - - -
"Free World" - - - - -
1988 "Love Struck" 78 4 13 25 76
"Every Shade of Love" - 19 - - 98
"I'm Just Wanting You" (Promo Single) - - - - -
1996 "My Life" - - - - -


  1. ^ "Jesse Johnson Makes It Big; Ex-Prince Protege". Jet. July 22, 1985. p. 62. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 

External links[edit]