Syl Johnson, a legendary soul and blues singer from Chicago, whose work is frequently sampled in hip-hop, has passed away at the age of 85, his family announced on Sunday.

“It is with extreme sadness that our family announces the passing of Soul & Blues Hall of Fame Legend, Syl Johnson (born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, MS),” the family said in a statement provided to Pitchfork. “Dad, Brother, Grandfather, Great Grandfather, Uncle, Friend & Artist, he lived his life as a singer, musician, and entrepreneur who loved black music.”


Clayton Call / Getty Images

Johnson’s career took off in the 1960s and ’70s while he released records for the Chicago label, Twinight.

Johnson’s hit single, “Different Strokes,” from his 1968 debut Dresses Too Short has been sampled by dozens of hip-hop artists including Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, De La Soul, Ice Cube, Kanye West, and Jay-Z. The website, WhoSampled, has found that over 300 songs have used portions of the track.

His family’s statement went on to call him a “fiery, fierce, fighter,” who was “always standing for the pursuit of justice as it related to his music and sound.”

“He will truly be missed by all who crossed his path,” the statement continued. “His catalog and legacy will be remembered as impeccable and a historical blueprint to all who experience it. To his fans around the world, he loved you all. A lover of music and a Chicago icon, Syl Johnson lived his life unapologetically.”

Check out “Different Strokes” below.




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[Via]