Singer-songwriter Michael Johnson dies at age 72

Michael Johnson
Singer-songwriter Michael Johnson had a number of hits, and spent the last several years living in Minneapolis. (Larry Marcus)

I don't have to miss no TV shows
I can start my whole life over
Change the numbers on my telephone
But the nights will sure be colder…

So sings Michael Johnson in the bridge of his 1978 hit, "Bluer Than Blue." Although themes of heartbreak are universal, the evocation of a cold night is one that certainly resonates with Minnesotans. It turns out Johnson was quite familiar with Minnesota.

Johnson, who also had hits in the 1980s — including the No. 1 hits "Give Me Wings" and "The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder" — died on July 25 at his home in Minneapolis. Johnson had reportedly faced a long illness. He was 72 years old.

Johnson was born in Colorado in 1944 and grew up in Denver. In the 1960s, he spent time studying classical guitar in Spain at the Liceu Conservatory in Barcelona. When he returned to the United States, he began performing in folk bands, including one that included John Denver in its lineup.

After a stint working on a Broadway musical, Johnson began his solo career in earnest, releasing his debut album There is a Breeze in 1973. The album sold well in the Twin Cities area, but didn't enjoy sweeping commercial success.

Johnson's first big hit was 1978's "Bluer Than Blue," which peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the summer of 1978.

In the 1980s, Johnson relocated to Nashville, where he enjoyed further chart success, particularly the No. 1 country hits, "Give Me Wings" and "The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder."

Family ties drew Johnson back to Minnesota in the 2000s. In 2012, Johnson released the album Moonlit Dejà Vu, and he spoke to Radio Heartland's Mike Pengra about the album around the time of its release. Johnson had also performed in studio at The Current in June 2005.

Until his illness made performing difficult, Johnson continued to enjoy touring and performing at smaller venues catering heavily to folk and acoustic music, including local gigs at the 318 Cafe in Excelsior, Minn., at the Hopkins Center for the Arts in Hopkins, Minn., and at the Cedar Cultural Center and the Aster Cafe in Minneapolis.


Michael Johnson - official website

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