Johnnie Harrison Taylor (May 5, 1934 – May 31, 2000) was an American vocalist in a wide variety of genres, from rhythm and blues, soul, blues and gospel to pop, doo-wop and disco.
Johnnie Harrison Taylor was born in Crawfordsville, AR, on May 5, 1934 (though he usually gave his birth year as 1938); he grew up mostly in nearby West Memphis. He began singing in church as a young child and later moved to Kansas City, where he performed
with a gospel group called the Melody Kings; it was through this outfit that he initially met and befriended Soul Stirrers frontman Sam Cooke. In 1953, Taylor left home and moved to Chicago, where he joined the doo wop group the Five Echoes; shortly thereafter, he began performing concurrently with the gospel group the Highway Q.C.'s, which had once been home to Sam Cooke. In 1957, Taylor would replace Cooke in the hugely influential Soul Stirrers, after Cooke departed for a career in secular music.
In 1966, Taylor moved to Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was dubbed "The Philosopher of Soul". While 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. "Who's Making Love" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.
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. "I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)" also sold in excess of one million units, and was awarded gold disc status by the R.I.A.A. in October 1973. Taylor, along with Isaac Hayes and The Staple Singers was one of the label's flagship artists. He appeared in the documentary film, Wattstax, which was released in 1973.
After Stax folded in 1975, Taylor switched to Columbia Records, where he made his best known hit, "Disco Lady", in 1976. It spent four weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and six weeks on the Billboard R&B chart in the U.S. It peaked at #25 in the UK Singles Chart in May 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. In the 1980s Johnnie Taylor was a DJ on KKDA-FM, 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".
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 label in his sixteen-year stint.
In 1996, Taylor's eighth album for Malaco, Good Love!, reached number one on the Billboard Top Blues Albums 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 was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1999.
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, Jr., among others.
Taylor died of a heart attack at Charlton Methodist Hospital in Dallas, Texas, on May 31, 2000, aged 66. He was buried beside his mother, Ida Mae Taylor, at Forrest Hill Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri. (Info edited from Wikipedia & All Music)