By Robert Mitts @ROBNEHISTORIAN / April 17, 2020
It’s been 30 years since Johnny Gill unleashed his classic self-titled “Johnny Gill” album to the world. His powerful, soulful and gritty vocals made him one of the top modern day generation singers in R&B and left women mesmerized with “My, My, My.” Let’s revisit that classic album that music lovers still rock on their playlists today. Great music will always stand the test of time, and Johnny Gill gave us one hell of an album filled with Rhythm, Soul, New Jack Swing and R&B.
“That 1990 album was the album that sealed my legacy in the game.”Johnny Gill
A DECISION THAT CHANGED HIS CAREER
New Edition took a break after completing their ‘Heartbreak’ tour opening the doors for the solo projects to go full steam ahead. In March of 1990, Bell Biv DeVoe would be the first spin off from New Edition to come out with new music as they dropped their monster hit “Poison.” Johnny Gill, originally a solo artist before joining New Edition, was already signed to do a solo album for Motown when he joined the group for their “Heartbreak” project. He had already recorded the songs “Feel So Much Better” and “Just a Lonely Night” right before joining New Edition. He put those songs and his album on hold. Everyone in the NE camp understood and knew full well that when the album and tour was over, Johnny was going to release his solo album. Prior to hooking up with New Edition, Gill released two solo albums; 1983’s “Johnny Gill” and 1985’s “Chemistry” on Cotillion Records. In 1984, Johnny recorded a duet album with DC’s own Stacy Lattisaw that included the top ten hit “Perfect Combination.” After recording the “Heartbreak” album with New Edition in 1988, Johnny Gill left Minneapolis with nothing but praise for super producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. “I consider them the genius behind the sound because they worked with five different guys to create one sound” Gill said. Fresh off the ‘Heartbreak’ tour, Johnny returned to the scene joining forces with Stacy Lattisaw and the two recorded the song “Where Do We Go from Here” that was featured on Lattisaw’s album. The song went to #1 on February 24, 1990 and stayed there for two weeks. So, going into his own project, Johnny already had on #1 hit on the charts with Stacy and a new found following of fans that now know him from New Edition. If that wasn’t enough, Gill had the best of both worlds working on his album, two sets of super producers. The productions teams of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and L.A. Reid and Babyface all produced tracks for what would become a masterpiece for Johnny Gill. That’s like having the music industry equivalent of Fort Knox on your side. “That was the first time we had a chance to put together Jam & Lewis and LA & Babyface to work on an album together” Gill said by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “That was my defining moment, where we put the nail in the coffin” he said.
JOHNNY GILL NEVER LOOKED BACK
On March 17, 1990, the first single “Rub You The Right Way” debuted on the Billboard Charts and immediately made an impact. Best known for singing ballads, Johnny opted to release a dance record first. Produced and Written by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and armed with a trendy state-of-the-art video, “Rub You The Right Way” exploded at radio and retail, landing at the top of the R&B Billboard charts and was a certified gold single, selling over 500,000 copies. The song had crossover appeal and peaked at #3 on the Hot 100. The bass line sizzles as the drum beats pound to perfections as Johnny sings “Do you feel, the magic in my hands, when I touch, and Rub you the right way.” Gill hit hard right out of the box. On April 17, 1990, Johnny released his self-titled album “Johnny Gill” on the Motown Label. “I didn’t need a concept; I didn’t need a gimmick. There’s no certain pocket that I’m stuck in. That was the key to making things happen for me. There’s nothing to Johnny but just Johnny sings” Gill told the AP in 1990. This was a breakthrough album during a time that New Jack Swing was at its peak. The album featured 10 tracks and was truly a R&B masterpiece of songwriting, sound production and arrangement backed by Gill’s superior vocals. Johnny put forth his best effort and gave his fans what he felt R&B should sound like. His incredible vocal delivery quickly played a role in helping him emerge as one of this generations powerhouse singers and establish him among the elite. The second single off the album was the LA & Babyface penned R&B Super Ballad “My, My My.” Johnny drove the women crazy with his sex appeal lyrics like “Put on your red dress and slip on your high heals; and some of the sweet perfume, it sure smells good on you.” This song was so powerful, a 16-minute live version was featured on the Maxi and Cassette Singles. Remember Cassettes? Sax Soloist Kenny G made a special appearance on the recording of the song performing his signature sax solos on the track. Once again, the song topped the charts hitting the #1 spot in Billboard on July 14 and spent two weeks at the helm. This was Johnny’s 3rd Consecutive #1 Song and fans just could not get enough of Johnny Gill. Today, “My, My, My” is known as one of the biggest ballads of the 90’s. It’s a timeless classic. But in 1990, Johnny wasn’t sure if it was right. “I was on the fence about this song. I remember Jheryl Busby and Terry Lewis telling me that this was going to be my signature song” Gill said. “I was unsure about it. Not that I didn’t like it, I was just unsure.” Thankfully the song was released and Johnny is proud of what the song became.
“Fairweather Friend” was the third single from this multi-platinum project and is this author’s favorite song from that album. Produced by LA & Babyface with the help of Kayo and Daryl Simmons, the song pulsates from beat to beat and the listener can’t help but groove to the infectious melody. The drum programming on this song was so tight that you just wanted to move and groove. On the bridge Johnny confidently sings “I’ll be your bridge over and through trouble waters, you’ll never have to face it alone.” On the chorus, he pulls no punches and gets right to the point telling that special someone “I wanna be your Fairweather Friend, I’ll be there ’til the end, even through stormy weather, time and time again.” Ralph Tresvant, lead singer of New Edition, has always had respect for Gill’s vocal ability. “Johnny has one of those voices that every singer wishes they had” Tresvant said. The lovely and beautiful Karyn White sang background vocals on this track. “Fairweather Friend” was another big record for Gill peaking at #2 on the charts. It solidified Johnny as a major force in the R&B world.
The fourth single from this all star collection of hits was the very hard hitting Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis produced single “Wrap My Body Tight.” The 12-Inch Remix to the song added an extra element to the song that the album version didn’t have. The song was big on the streets and in the clubs. Urban Radio ate this song up. To no surprise, “Wrap My Body Tight” landed at #1 on the Billboard Charts making Johnny Gill’s self-titled album a huge commercial success. The album was big for Motown Records, selling over 3 million copies. Having a #1 Album, and three singles to hit the top of the charts, comparisons to R&B Heavyweights like Luther and Teddy began to circulate. Built on the success of his album, Johnny joined his fellow bandmates Bill Biv DeVoe on the very successful ‘Triple Threat’ Tour with Keith Sweat that ran into 1991. For his efforts, Johnny was the winner of two Soul Train Awards, as well as receiving nominations for two Grammy Awards and two American Music Awards. Speaking from his home by phone in Los Angeles, Johnny reflects back on what is now the 30th Anniversary of his classic album. “That album was the album that sealed my legacy in the game. Some of my favorite tracks to this day are “My, My, My”, “Rub You The Right Way”, “Lady Dujour” and “Feels So Much Better” he said. Over 37 years in the business, Johnny can’t say enough about his fans. “My fans have been so loyal over these 30 plus years. I’m so grateful because that’s what has kept me in business. I can’t thank them enough for the love and support. I don’t take it for granted” he said. “I go into the studio, even to this day, I try to record songs that are not what I call ‘throw away’ records, simply because as loyal as they’ve been to me I find that its important to not slack on my job; to give them the best product that I can provide. I take that seriously” he said. In addition to Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, LA Reid and Babyface, additional song production was provided by Pebbles, Randy Ran, Nat Adderly Jr, Zack Vaz and Cirocco. Pebbles, Karyn White, After 7 and Lance Ellington provided background vocals. Johnny dedicated the album to his mother, Annie Gill. This album is one of those rare albums that you can actually put it on and let it play without fast forwarding through a particular song. 30 years later, in 2020, the music on this body of work is still relevant today. This truly was a masterpiece and Johnny Gill will do down in history as one of the greatest R&B/Soul Singers of all-time. Motown/UMG has released an expanded edition of this classic album featuring 21 tracks. Among the original tracks, the expanded edition features 10 remixes of all the singles that were released from “Johnny Gill.” Let’s take a moment to go back and revisit some of Johnny’s work from that classic album.
“My fans mean everything to me”Johnny Gill
STILL A GAME CHANGER
Fast forward to 2020, Johnny Gill hasn’t lost a step. Just like in 1990, Gill has a #1 album. His current album “Game Changer II” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Chart, marking the first time in his 37-year career that one of his albums debuted at #1. The first single from the project, released in 2019, was a beautiful ballad called “Soul of a Woman.” In a recurring theme in Johnny’s life, the song also topped the charts. His current single is the Top 3 Hit “Perfect” featuring Ralph Tresvant. Look for two additional singles to be released this year; “Bed on Fire” and “Fiesta” both from the “Game Changer II” album.
JOHNNY GILL MUSIC:
Download Johnny Gill’s “Johnny Gill” 1990 Expanded Edition https://music.apple.com/ca/album/johnny-gill-expanded/1453156534
Download Johnny Gill’s “Game Changer II” Album https://music.apple.com/us/album/game-changer-ii/1475191373
Download Johnny Gill’s “Game Changer” Album https://music.apple.com/us/album/game-changer/1440931264
Official Web Site: www.johnnygill.com