July 25, 2017: Michael Johnson, ‘Bluer Than Blue’ Singer, Dies

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Michael Johnson in a publicity photo

The singer best known for the 1978 hit “Bluer Than Blue,” Michael Johnson, died July 25, 2017, at age 72 in Minneapolis. A post on his website stated, “It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I share the sad news of Michael’s passing Tuesday evening after a long illness.” Though no cause of death was reported, the singer had quadruple heart bypass surgery in 2007 and suffered from emphysema.

In addition to “Bluer Than Blue,” which peaked at #12, Johnson placed five other records on the Billboard singles chart. He also scored two #1 country hits, “Give Me Wings” (1986) and “The Moon is Still Over Her Shoulder” (1987).

Born Aug. 8, 1944, in Alamosa, Colo., Johnson began his professional music career in the mid-’60s, His first recording, “Hills,” was released on Epic Records but made no impact. He joined the folk groups the New Society and the Chad Mitchell Trio (which also included John Denver at the time), then joined the touring company of the theatrical production Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. In 1971, he signed with Atlantic Records and released his debut album, There is a Breeze, produced by Peter Yarrow and Phil Ramone in New York. He scored his first chart single on the ATCO label in 1973, “On the Road.”

Johnson self-produced his next album, 1975’s For All You Mad Musicians, which was followed by Ain’t Dis Da Life. He signed with EMI America Records in 1978 and released “Bluer Than Blue,” which ultimately became his biggest chart single. It was followed by “Almost Like Being in Love” (#32), “This Night Won’t Last Forever” (#19), “The Very First Time” (#101) and “You Can Call Me Blue” (#86).

Related: What were some of the other big hits of 1978?

Michael Johnson

That recording turned out to be his final pop hit but Johnson found new life in the world of country in the mid-’80s. Now signed to RCA Records, he first made that chart in1985 with “I Love You By Heart,” a duet with singer Sylvia. He placed eight further singles on the Billboard country chart, including the aforementioned #1 hits, before falling out of favor at the end of that decade.

He later signed with Vanguard Records in 1995, followed by brief stays at other labels. His most recent release was Moonlit Déjà Vu on Red House in 2012.

Watch the video of “Bluer Than Blue”

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