American pop, country and folk singer-songwriter and guitarist Michael Johnson was born August 8, 1944 in Alamosa, Colorado and grew up in Denver. He started playing the guitar at 13. In 1963, he began attending Colorado State University 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. Epic released the song “Hills”, written and sung by Johnson, as a single. Johnson began extensive touring of clubs and colleges, finding a receptive audience everywhere he went. 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. ON returning to USA he joined Randy Sparks in a group called the New Society and did a tour of the Orient.
When New Society split 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. 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.” Which visited New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago
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. Feeling this first effort wasn’t a true reflection of his music (despite being a huge 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. It was time to make a move on the national market.
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. 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; 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. His next EMI album, Dialogue, provided his third big hit, “This Night Won’t Last Forever” and a Gold Record for European sales of “I’ll Always Love You”. He is best known for his 1978 hit song “Bluer Than Blue”. He charted four hits on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and nine more on the Hot Country Songs charts, including two Number One country hits in 1986’s “Give Me Wings” and “The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder”.
Johnson recorded five albums in all for EMI and in 1985 moved over to RCA Records, where he adopted a 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.” After two country albums on RCA (plus two greatest hits collections), Johnson moved over to Atlantic Records in 1991. He recorded sporadically in the 1990s for smaller labels. In 1995,Johnson co-wrote an updated version of “Cain’s Blood with Jack Sundrud of Poco for the country music group 4 Runner and also proved to be a successful writer of prose when he penned “The Solo Performer” columns for the magazine Performing Songwriter from 1993-98. Sadly Johnson died at his home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on July 25, 2017 at the age of 72