R&B Singer For ‘Different Strokes’ Was 85 – The Hamden Journal

Syl Johnson, whose 1967 single “Different Strokes” has been frequently sampled by some of hip-hop’s top artists, has died at age 85. No cause of death was given.

In a statement, Johnson’s family called him “a legend.”

“It is with extreme sadness that our family announces the passing of Soul & Blues Hall of Fame legend Syl Johnson (born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, MS). Dad, Brother, Grandfather, Great Grandfather, Uncle, Friend & Artist, he lived his life as a singer, musician, and entrepreneur who loved black music.” Johnson was 85 years old.

Johnson was protective of his work. He filed a lawsuit against JAY-Z and Kanye West in 2011 for using portions of his song in “The Joy” without proper clearance. The suit was settled. Johnson also sued Michael Jackson, Cypress Hill, and others for sampling his music without permission.

Johnson was prolific, released a dozen albums of R&B during his career, including Is It Because I’m Black, Back for a Taste of Your LoveUptown ShakedownSuicide Blues, and Bridge to Legacy.

In 2010, Numero Group released a career retrospective box set of Johnson’s work, Complete Mythology. The release earned Johnson his first two Grammy nominations: for Best Historical Album and Best Liner Notes.

Johnson was also the subject of a documentary, Syl Johnson: Any Way the Wind Blows, which featured an original score by Yo La Tengo and interviews with RZA, De La Soul’s Prince Paul, and Jonathan Lethem, among others.

No details on survivors or a memorial were immediately available.