Last night I did something strange (for me). I actually bought tickets to a concert and sat in a seat for pure enjoyment. The artist was Syl Johnson, a legendary (although underappreciated) soul and blues singer and songwriter best known for his 1975 hit song “Take Me To The River”. Syl was celebrating 50 years in the music business (wonder what most of today’s artists will be doing in 50 years?). He hit the stage in a red suit, backed by a 14 piece band, with horns and backup singers galore, and played many of his most popular songs. He talked about the last 25 years, when he was semi-retired, until he realized that rappers like Wu-Tang Clan, Hammer and the Geto Boys were sampling his music, mostly his song “Is It Because I’m Black.” He talked about Cypress Hill sampling one of his songs and Sony forgetting to clear the sample, resulting in a lawsuit that made him a great deal of money (he thanked his lawyers from the stage.)
He brought Otis Clay and Gene Chandler up to sing with him during the set, and the crowd went crazy!
Before he started his encores, (without the horn section- they put on their coats and left because, as Syl put it “They have another gig!”) he told the story of how his first record company changed the name of the company to try to screw him out of royalties, and how the recently released, career defining box set provided him with the first chance in his life to actually receive a royalty check!
Nice to see a true star finally get his due!
One weird note: During the prerecorded announcements before the show, the voice announced that “at the performers request, no photography will be allowed .” As this was a prerecorded announcement, it seems that the venue has decided that no one will be allowed to shoot at any show. Having known Syl for many years, and knowing that he is attracted to a camera like a moth to a flame, I am guessing that he knew nothing about this.