Marv Johnson

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Marv Johnson
Marv Johnson.jpg
Background information
Birth name Marvin Earl Johnson
Born (1938-10-15)October 15, 1938
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Died May 16, 1993(1993-05-16) (aged 54)
Columbia, South Carolina, U.S.
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, pianist
Instruments Vocals, piano
Years active 1956–1993
Labels United Artists
Motown Records
Motorcity Records

Marv Earl Johnson (October 15, 1938 – May 16, 1993)[1][2] was an American R&B and soul singer, most notable for performing on the first record to be issued from what became Motown.


He was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1938.[1] He began his career singing with a doo-wop group called the Serenaders in the mid 1950s. With budding talents not only as a singer but as a songwriter and pianist, he was discovered by Berry Gordy while Johnson performed at a carnival.[3] Gordy had already decided to form his first record label, Tamla, and Johnson's recording of their song "Come to Me" became the label's first single in May 1959.[4] The fledgling label did not have national distribution and so the song was released by United Artists, and reached No.30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[4] Johnson would co-write another four songs with Gordy.

Between 1959 and 1961, Johnson would issue nine Billboard Hot 100 singles including two Top 10s. The first of them was "You Got What It Takes", which reached No.10 in the US and No.7 in the UK Singles Chart. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[5] "I Love The Way You Love" reached No.9. He scored his final US Top 40 single in 1960 with "(You've Got To) Move Two Mountains". It also sold a million copies, giving Johnson his second gold disc.[3]

Johnson enjoyed many hits in Australia where he racked up a total of eight Top 40 hits, including three chart-toppers. "Come To Me" was released in Australia on EMI's London Records (as were most of his Australian releases) and reached No.16 on the 2UE Top 40 in Sydney. "You Got What It Takes" was his biggest Australian hit, topping the national charts for over 16 weeks in 1960. After "I Love The Way You Love" became a national Top 10 hit in mid 1960, Johnson flew to Australia to meet entrepreneur and Big Show creator Lee Gordon, and performed in his September Big Show, "Twist It Up". At the top of the bill were Bobby Rydell, Chubby Checker, and James Darren with Jackie Wilson, Johnson, and Barry Mann. They were supported by Johnny O'Keefe, The Delltones and Col Joye.

In the UK, he had two Top Ten hits. "You Got What It Takes", reached No.7 in 1960, and "I'll Pick a Rose for My Rose" got to No.10 in 1969. Three other recordings made the UK chart: "I Love The Way You Love", "Ain't Gonna Be That Way" and "I Miss You Baby".[2]

After issuing his final Motown singles in the U.S. in 1968, Johnson remained with Motown working on sales and promotion throughout the 1970s. He also wrote songs for Tyrone Davis and Johnnie Taylor.[4]

Johnson continued singing into the 1990s, releasing a solo album on the London based Motorcity Records label. He died of a stroke on 16 May 1993,[1] in Columbia, South Carolina, at the age of 54. He is interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.

Selected discography[edit]

Chart singles[edit]

Year Single
Chart Positions
US[6] US R&B[6] UK[2]
1959 "Come to Me"
(Berry Gordy, Jr. / Marv Johnson)
30 6
"I'm Coming Home"
(Berry Gordy, Jr.)
82 23
1960 "(You've Got to) Move Two Mountains"
(Berry Gordy, Jr.)
20 12
"Ain't Gonna Be That Way"
(Berry Gordy, Jr. / Marv Johnson)
74 50
"All The Love I've Got"
(Bradford / Berry Gordy, Jr. / Holland)
"I Love The Way You Love"
(Berry Gordy, Jr. / Mikaljohn)
9 2 35
"You Got What It Takes"
(Berry Gordy, Jr. / Gwen Gordy / Tyran Carlo)
10 2 7
1961 "Happy Days"
(Berry Gordy, Jr. / T. McKnight)
58 7
(Berry Gordy, Jr.)
61 26
1969 "I'll Pick a Rose for My Rose"
(J. Dean / Marv Johnson / W. Weatherspoon)
"I Miss You Baby"
(Clarence Paul)


  • Marvelous Marv Johnson (1960) - United Artists
  • More Marv Johnson (1961) - United Artists
  • I Believe (1966) - United Artists
  • I'll Pick a Rose for My Rose (1969) UK TML 11111 - Motown
  • The Very Best - Motor City Recordings (1995) Carleton Home Entertainment


  1. ^ a b c Accessed March 2010
  2. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 287. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  3. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 125. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  4. ^ a b c Eder, Bruce. "Marv Johnson". Allmusic. Retrieved March 26, 2010. 
  5. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 115. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  6. ^ a b Allmusic ((( Marv Johnson > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]