Johnnie Harrison Taylor (May 5, 1937 ??? May 31, 2000) was an American vocalist in a wide variety of genres, from Gospel, blues and soul to pop, doo-wop and disco.
Johnnie Taylor was born in Crawfordsville, Arkansas. As an adult, he had one release, "Somewhere to Lay My Head", on Chicago's Chance Records label in the 1950s, as part of the gospel group Highway QCs, which had been founded by a young Sam Cooke. His singing was strikingly close to that of Sam Cooke, and he was hired to take Cooke's place in Cooke's gospel group, the Soul Stirrers, in 1957.
A few years later, after Cooke had established his independent SAR Records, Taylor signed on and recorded "Rome Wasn't Built In A Day" in 1962. However, SAR Records quickly became defunct after Cooke's death in 1964.
In 1966, Taylor moved to Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was dubbed "The Philosopher of Soul". Whilst there he recorded with the label's house band, Booker T. & the MGs. His hits included "I Had a Dream", "I've Got to Love Somebody's Baby" (both written by the team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter) and most notably "Who's Making Love?", which reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1968.
Taylor once toured in California with blues singer Blues Boy Willie of Memphis, Texas.
During his tenure at Stax, he became an R&B star, with over a dozen chart successes, such as "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone", which reached No. 23 on the Hot 100 chart, "Cheaper to Keep Her" (Mack Rice) and record producer Don Davis's penned "I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)", which reached No. 11 on the Hot 100 chart. Taylor, along with Isaac Hayes and The Staple Singers was one of the label's flagship artists.
After Stax folded in the mid 1970s, Taylor switched to Columbia Records, where he made his best known hit, "Disco Lady", in 1976. "Disco Lady" was the first certified platinum single (two million copies sold) by the RIAA.
After a brief stint at Beverly Glen Records, Taylor signed with Malaco Records after the label's founder Tommy Couch and producing partner Wolf Stephenson heard him sing at blues singer, Z. Z. Hill's funeral in the spring of 1984.
Backed by members of The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section as well as in-house veterans like former Stax keyboardist Carson Whitsett and guitarist/bandleader Bernard Jenkins, Malaco gave Taylor the type of recording freedom that Stax had given him in the late 1960s and early 1970s, enabling him to record ten albums for the Malaco label in his sixteen year stint.
In 1996, Taylor's eighth album for Malaco, Good Love!, made it to Number One on Billboard's Blues chart (#15 R&B), and was the biggest record in Malaco's history. With this success, Malaco recorded a live video of Taylor at the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas, Texas in the summer of 1997. The club portion of the "Good Love" video was recorded at 1001 Nightclub in Jackson, Mississippi.
Taylor's final song was "Soul Heaven", in which he dreamed of being at a concert featuring deceased soul music icons Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, and MGs drummer Al Jackson, among others. In one verse, Taylor sang, "I didn't want to wake up/I was havin' such a good time".
In the 1980s Johnnie Taylor was a DJ on KKDA, a Dallas/Fort Worth radio station. The station's format is mostly R&B and Soul oldies and their on-the-air personalities are often local R&B, Soul, blues, and jazz musicians. Mr. Taylor was billed as "The Wailer, Johnnie Taylor."
Taylor died of a heart attack at Charleton Methodist Hospital in Dallas, on May 31, 2000 (aged 63). Stax billed Johnnie Taylor as The Philosopher of Soul. He was also known as the Blues Wailer. He was buried beside his mother, Ida Mae Taylor, in Arkansas.
Taylor was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1999.
In 2004, the UK's Shapeshifters sampled Taylor's 1982 "What About My Love?", for their #1 hit single, "Lola's Theme".
Taylor has four children who have been recording artists. Johnnie Taylor Jr., Floyd Taylor, Latasha "Tasha" Taylor & T.J. Hooker-Taylor. The best known as Floyd Taylor, who has recorded three albums for Malaco Records. Other children include Fonda Bryant, Schiffon Taylor-Brown, Sabrina Taylor, Jonathan Taylor, and Anthony Arnold.