Michael Johnson (singer)

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Michael Johnson
Johnson in 2002
Johnson in 2002
Background information
Birth nameMichael Jay Johnson
Born(1944-08-08)August 8, 1944
Alamosa, Colorado, U.S.
DiedJuly 25, 2017(2017-07-25) (aged 72)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
GenresFolk,[1] folk rock, country,[1] soft rock[1]
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, record producer, actor, writer
Instrument(s)Vocals, classical guitar, acoustic guitar, piano
Years active1957–2017
LabelsAtco, Sanskrit Records, EMI, RCA, Vanguard, Atlantic, Intersound, American Originals, Red House

Michael Jay Johnson (August 8, 1944 – July 25, 2017) was an American pop, country, and folk singer-songwriter and guitarist. He is best remembered for his 1978 hit song "Bluer Than Blue". He charted four hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and nine more on Hot Country Songs, including two number one country hits in 1986's "Give Me Wings" and "The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder". He also co-wrote "Cain's Blood", the debut single of 1990s country group 4 Runner.


Johnson was born in the small town of Alamosa, Colorado and grew up in Denver.[2] He started playing the guitar at 13. In 1963, he began attending Colorado State College (now the University of Northern Colorado) in Greeley to study music but his college career was truncated when he won an international talent contest two years later. First prize included a deal with Epic Records.[3]

Wishing to hone his instrumental skills, in 1966 he set off for Barcelona, Spain, to the Liceu Conservatory, studying with the eminent classical guitarists, Graciano Tarragó and Renata Tarragó.[4] Upon his return to the States, he joined Randy Sparks in a group called the New Society and did a tour of the Orient.

When the band dissolved in 1967, he signed on with the Chad Mitchell Trio for a year, spending some of that time co-writing with another member, John Denver.[5] The group was renamed Denver, Boise & Johnson. When the trio came to an end, Johnson made a radical departure from everything he had done previously by taking on a major supporting role in the off-Broadway production of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.[6]

In 1971, Johnson signed with Atco Records to release his first album, There Is A Breeze, which was released in 1973 and produced by Johnson, Chris Dedrick, Peter Yarrow and Phil Ramone in New York and Toronto, Canada.[7] Feeling this first effort was not a true reflection of his music (despite being a best seller in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area), Johnson self-produced his next LP in 1975, For All You Mad Musicians, relying more on his voice and guitar for a folk feel. He followed this up with Ain't Dis Da Life, where he added a rhythm section. With each new recording and his continued touring, his popularity was increasing.

Teaming up with Brent Maher and Steve Gibson in Nashville, Tennessee, Johnson created a two-song demo consisting of "Bluer Than Blue" and "Almost Like Being in Love" (the latter song from the Broadway musical Brigadoon). EMI America took one listen and wasted no time in signing him, quickly getting The Michael Johnson Album out in 1978. "Bluer Than Blue" was written by Randy Goodrum. The first single, "Bluer Than Blue", became Johnson's first Top 40 hit, peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the summer of 1978;[7] the song became a chart-topping single on the Adult Contemporary chart. "Almost Like Being in Love" went to No. 91 on the R&B chart while hitting the Top 5 on the AC chart and the Top 40 on the pop chart.

Johnson recorded five albums in all for EMI and in 1985 moved over to RCA Records,[7] where he adopted a contemporary country style that stayed compatible with his soft, mellow leanings. He scored five Top Ten country hits from 1986 to 1989, including the chart-toppers "Give Me Wings" and "The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder."[7] After two country albums on RCA (plus two greatest hits collections), Johnson moved over to Atlantic Records in 1991.

In 1995, the country music group 4 Runner scored a minor hit with the single "Cain's Blood", for which Johnson co-wrote an updated version with Jack Sundrud of Poco.


Johnson died at his home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on July 25, 2017, 2 weeks short of his 73rd birthday.[8]



Year Album Chart Positions Label
US Country
1973 There Is a Breeze 213 Atco
1975 For All You Mad Musicians Sanskrit
1977 Ain't Dis Da Life
1978 The Michael Johnson Album 81 83 EMI
1979 Dialogue 157
1980 You Can Call Me Blue 203
1981 Home Free
1983 Lifetime Guarantee
1986 Wings 26 RCA
1988 That's That
1990 The Best Of
1992 Michael Johnson Atlantic
1995 Departure Vanguard
1997 Then and Now Intersound
1999 The Very Best of Michael Johnson: Bluer Than Blue (1978–1995) Razor & Tie
2000 LIVE at the Bluebird Cafe American Originals
2002 Classic Masters EMI
2005 Always – Roberto Bianco with Michael Johnson Yellow Rose
2012 Moonlit Déjà Vu Redhouse Records


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US Country
CAN Country
1973 "On the Road" 118 There Is a Breeze
1978 "Bluer Than Blue" 12 1 6 1 The Michael Johnson Album
"Almost Like Being in Love" 32 4 40 10
1979 "Sailing Without a Sail" 44
"This Night Won't Last Forever" 19 5 75 66 9 Dialogue
"I'll Always Love You"
1980 "The Very First Time" 101 29
"You Can Call Me Blue" 86 34 37 You Can Call Me Blue
1981 "You're Not Easy to Forget" 32 Home Free
1986 "Gotta Learn to Love Without You" 12 Wings
"Give Me Wings" 1 3
1987 "The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder" 1 2
"Ponies" 26
"Crying Shame" 4 8 That's That
1988 "I Will Whisper Your Name" 7 19
"That's That" 9 8
1989 "Roller Coaster Run (Up Too Slow, Down Too Fast)" 52
1991 "It Must Be You" (with Juice Newton) Michael Johnson
1992 "One Honest Tear"[19]
1997 "Whenever I Call You Friend" (with Alison Krauss) Then and Now
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Featured singles[edit]

Year Single Artist Peak chart
US Country CAN Country
1985 "I Love You by Heart" Sylvia 9 7 One Step Closer

Music videos[edit]

Year Video Director
1978 "Bluer Than Blue" Jerry Watson
1988 "That's That"[20] Bill Pope
1997 "Whenever I Call You Friend" (w/ Alison Krauss) Tom Bevins


  1. ^ a b c "Michael Johnson (1944-2017): A Requiem". Ricochet.
  2. ^ "Michael Johnson: Singer & Guitarist". Mjblue.com. Retrieved August 7, 2021.
  3. ^ Betts, Stephen L. (July 27, 2017). "'Bluer Than Blue' Singer Michael Johnson Dead at 72". Rolling Stone. ISSN 0035-791X.
  4. ^ Barry McCloud. "Definitive Country: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Country Music and Its Performers (Perige, 1995)".
  5. ^ "Chad Mitchell Trio - Official Website". Chadmitchelltrio.com. Retrieved August 7, 2021.
  6. ^ Dauphin, Chuck (July 27, 2017). "'Bluer Than Blue' Singer Michael Johnson Dies at 72". Billboard. ISSN 0006-2510.
  7. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Country Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 206/8. ISBN 0-85112-726-6.
  8. ^ Bream, Jon (July 27, 2017). "'Bluer Than Blue' Singer Michael Johnson dies at 72". Star Tribune.
  9. ^ "Michael Johnson Album & Song Chart History – Country Albums". Billboard. Retrieved September 24, 2010.
  10. ^ "allmusic ((( Michael Johnson > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Allmusic. Retrieved September 24, 2010.
  11. ^ "Results – RPM – Library and Archives Canada – Top Albums/CDs". RPM. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. Retrieved September 24, 2010.
  12. ^ "Michael Johnson Chart History – Country Songs". Billboard. Retrieved September 24, 2010.
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 463. ISBN 978-0-89820-188-8.
  14. ^ "Michael Johnson Chart History – Adult Contemporary". Billboard. Retrieved September 24, 2010.
  15. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 160. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  16. ^ "Results – RPM – Library and Archives Canada – Country Singles". RPM. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. Retrieved September 24, 2010.
  17. ^ "Results – RPM – Library and Archives Canada – Top Singles". RPM. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. Retrieved September 24, 2010.
  18. ^ "Results – RPM – Library and Archives Canada – Adult Contemporary". RPM. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. Retrieved September 24, 2010.
  19. ^ "Single Reviews" (PDF). Billboard. May 9, 1992.
  20. ^ "New Videoclips" (PDF). Billboard. July 30, 1988.

External links[edit]