Our top 10 songs from The Brothers Johnson list digs deep into the music of an American band famed for its punk, soul, and R&B influence. The band’s founding members were the brothers George and Louis Johnson. George and Louis had initially teamed up with their elder brother Tommy Johnson and cousin Alex Weir to form Johnson Three Plus One while still in high school. After several years of playing together, they performed as a backing band to The Supremes and Bobby Womack.
Louis and George Johnson soon joined Billy Preston in writing songs for his two albums, Music is My Life (1972) and The Kids & Me (1974). During this time, Louis and George Johnson released several covers as The Brothers Johnson. One of their acclaimed cover songs is “Hey Jude,” an original hit by The Beatles. After touring with Quincy Jones, the band released its debut album Look Out for #1 (1976). The album was a success, rising to the ninth position on the Billboard 200.
Look Out for #1 (1976) rose to number one on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart. Quincy Jones is credited for the album’s success, thanks to his fantastic production of this soul and funk-influenced album. Some of the best songs featured on the album include “I’ll Be Good to You” and the instrumental hit “Tomorrow (A Better You, A Better Me).” The subsequent three albums by the band were a success too. The sophomore album Right on Time (1977) reached number two on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart. Blam! (1978) and Light Up the Night (1980) matched the band’s debut album’s performance on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart.
However, the two albums performed better than Look Out for #1 (1976) on the Billboard 200, peaking at number seven and five, respectively. Some of the honorable hits from the third and fourth studio albums by The Brothers Johnson include “Stomp!” “Treasure,” “Ain’t We Funkin’ Now,” and the cover song “Strawberry Letter 23.” All the band’s first four albums were released under A&M Records and produced by Quincy Jones.
However, The Brothers Johnson would self-produce their fifth studio album, Winners (1981). Winners (1981) failed to match the success of the previous releases. Nevertheless, the album rose to number forty-eight on the Billboard 200. The album rose to number ten on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart.
The Brothers Johnson disbanded, allowing George and Louis Johnson to pursue solo careers. Louis started his solo career by recording an album whose music was prominently gospel. Later, he played bass on Michael Jackson’s sixth studio album Thriller (1982). Thriller (1982) remains the best-selling album worldwide. Unlike Louis, George Johnson didn’t have a successful solo career. While he recorded a complete studio album, it remains unreleased to date.
The two brothers have reunited severally, with their first reunion yielding the album Out of Control (1984). Out of Control (1984) was succeeded fairly, having it rise to number ninety-one on the Billboard 200. The next time the duo came together, they released Kickin’ (1988). Sadly, the album didn’t appear on the chart. Here we present the best songs from The Brothers Johnson sampled from the band’s seven studio albums.
#10- Hey Jude
Opening up our top 10 songs from The Brothers Johnson is their cover version of The Beatles “Hey Jude.” The Beatles originally released “Hey Jude” as a non-album single. Paul McCartney penned the lyrics to the song to comfort Lennon’s son after the parents settled for a divorce. The Brothers Johnson covered the song for the soundtrack to the 1976 film All This and World War II. The Brothers Johnson add there mix of funk and r&b in what would become one of the most unique cover versions of the classic Beatles song.
“Q” is a ravishing instrumental featured on the band’s sophomore album Right on Time (1977). The instrumental song was released as a tribute to Quincy Jones. Quincy Jones was the mentor and producer of the band’s first four albums. “Q” won the 1978 Grammy Award for the Best R&B Instrumental Performance. Other songs that had been nominated for the award include “The Unfinished Business” by Blackbyrds, “More Stuff” by Stuff, “Getaway” by Salsoul Orchestra, and “Funky Sea, Funky Dew” by Brecker Brothers.
#8- Ain’t We Funkin’ Now
Blam! (1978) rose to the top of the Billboard R&B Albums Chart in 1978, credit to songs such as “Ain’t We Funkin’ Now.” The song is especially famed for its fusion of pop and funk. As the song title suggests, The Brothers Johnson were doing great on the funk scene. Blam! (1978) was certified platinum, stamping the band’s dominance in the funk scene.
After producing Michael Jackson’s fifth studio album Off the Wall (1979), Quincy Jones went to produce The Brothers Johnsons’ album Light Up the Night (1980). This would be his last album with the duo. The Brothers Johnson would have chosen him any time to produce their music. However, after Quincy Jones left A&M Records, he was barred from contacting The Brothers Johnson in pursuit of any production contracts. One of the last musical gems he produced for The Brothers Johnson is “Treasure.” The song was penned by Rod Temperton, who was once a member of the funk act Heatwave.
#6 – The Real Thing
Number six on our top 10 songs from The Brothers Johnson is the funky hit “The Real Thing.” The song is featured on the album Winners (1981). George and Louis Johnson penned the lyrics to this song. With Quincy Jones having left A&M Records, the band chose to self-produce Winners (1981). Winners (1981) was the band’s last album to reach the top 10 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart.
#5 – Light Up the Night
The Brothers Johnson were among the first artists to release a song under the title “Light Up the Night.” “Light Up the Night” is the album title song to the band’s fourth studio album. George and Louis Johnson teamed up with Rod Temperton in penning the lyrics to this song. Other artists who have released an album under the same title include country musician Jess Moskaluke and Mike Stevens, the musical director of the English pop group Take That.
#4 – Come Together
In 1969, The Beatles released “Come Together” as the opening track to their eleventh studio album Abbey Road. Credit to John Lennon, who penned the fantastic lyrics that helped the song rise to number four on the UK Singles Chart. The Brothers Johnson released a rendition to the song on their debut album Look Out for #1 (1976). Other artists who covered the song include Ike & Tina Turner, Aerosmith, Michael Jackson, Arctic Monkeys, and Foo Fighters.
#3 – Strawberry Letter 23
When releasing their sophomore album Right on Time (1977), The Brothers Johnson found it irresistible to feature a cover of Shuggie Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23.” Their rendition to the song succeeded, having it top the Billboard Hot Soul Singles charts and reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100. Rumor has it that George Johnson was dating a cousin to Shuggie Otis when he came to learn of the song from Freedom Flight (1971).
#2 – I’ll Be Good to You
“I’ll Be Good to You” is the most popular song from The Brothers Johnson’s debut album Look Out for #1 (1976). The song lyrics were inspired by George Johnson’s idea to settle with a woman for a serious relationship. Louis Johnson and Senora Sam contributed to the lyrics of the song also. “I’ll Be Good to You” topped the Billboard Hot Soul Singles charts while reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was covered by Chaka Khan, Vanessa Williams, and Boney James.
#1 – Stomp!
Number one on our top 10 songs from The Brothers Johnson is the funky hit “Stomp!” The song is featured on the band’s fourth studio album, Light Up the Night (1980). “Stomp!” marked the peak of The Brothers Johnson’s career, having the song rise to number one on the Billboard R&B and Dance Club Songs Charts. On the Billboard Hot 100, the song managed to rise to the seventh position. “Stomp!” managed to rise to number six on the UK Singles Chart and number one on New Zealand’s charts.
Top 10 Songs From The Brothers Johnson article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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