Even though he has a long history in the R&B Music World, he might be best known in the Gospel arena as the lead singer on the Gospel classic by Jeff Majors — “Psalms 23.” On October 26, 2013, at the age of 65, The Legendary “Al Johnson” as he was known worldwide, transitioned from labor to reward.
Born in Newport News, Virginia in 1948, Johnson attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. and while there, co-founded the soul group, The Unifics. The group, with Johnson as lead singer, scored three hits on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968 and 1969 for the Kapp Records label. The first, “Court Of Love” climbed to #25, but reached #3 on the US Billboard R&B chart. The follow-up, “The Beginning Of The End” got to #36 on the Hot 100 and #9 R&B. Two further releases in 1969 reached the R&B chart.
Johnson returned to recording in 1978 with a solo album, Peaceful which he co-produced, as well as arranging and co-writing, for a small label, Marina, part-owned by former singer, Lloyd Price.
In 1980, Johnson collaborated with jazz/soul producer Norman Connors, for an album, Back for More, on Columbia Records. This came after he had sung on Norman Connors’ album, Invitation for Arista Records in 1979, singing the lead track, “Your Love”. Back For More peaked at #48 on the Billboard Black Albums chart. The lead single from the album, “I’m Back for More”, a duet with Jean Carn, reached #26 on the R&B chart, whilst the follow-up, “I’ve Got My Second Wind”, hit #58, both in 1980.
Around this time, Johnson was writing, arranging and also playing keyboards on recording sessions, including for the Willie Lester-Rodney Brown production team that released several successful disco/soul albums on Prelude in the early 1980s, with acts such as Sharon Redd, Bobby Thurston and Gayle Adams.
In the 1990s, Johnson worked with The Whispers on several albums and, in 1999, released another solo album for an independent label, Clout. Johnson re-formed the Unifics with original group member Tom Fauntleroy, and also toured with a solo gospel show. The group issued a new album, Unifics Return in 2005.
Johnson, aged 65, died on October 26, 2013.[