By Baby A. Gil
The Philippine Star
August 3, 2017 - 4:00pm
The superstitious among us believe that bad luck comes in threes. Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington were the first and second to make the final trip. And now we have the third. The singer, songwriter and guitarist Michael Johnson who died last July 26 after a long illness.
So hopefully, now that Johnson has provided the third, there will be no more names added to the list of departed music stars. Still I do say that whoever is putting up an all-star band somewhere up there, has just added a new ingredient to his mix. This is what Johnson does so well with his easy charm, country music.
It was during the late ’70s when the young Michael Johnson burst into the hit charts with his composition, “Bluer than blue/ sadder than sad/ you’re the only light this empty room has ever had/ life without you is gonna be bluer than blue.” And oh how the Pinoys reacted. We are suckers for sad songs and what can be sadder than bluer than blue? From that time on, what was initially a pop-country ballad became an easy listening favorite out here.
Of course, it also helped a lot that a year later, Johnson emerged again with another heartbreak song, I’ll Always Love You. No not that Dolly Parton composition that Whitney Houston sang, but the one that Johnson himself also wrote. “I’d just like to let you know/ I wish I’d never let you go/ I’ll always love you/ deep inside this heart of mine/ do love you/ and I’ll always need you/ and if you ever change your mind/ I still, I will love you.”
And in the ensuing four decades, Johnson became part of the playlist of every heartbroken Pinoy. It couldn’t be helped, Bluer Than Blue and I’ll Always Love You became so popular that radio listeners nursing private pains found themselves reacting to a Johnson soundtrack. Truth to tell, there has never been a time when those two songs lacked airplay out here these past 40 years. In fact, there were more these past days because of Johnson’s demise.
He may be gone but his fans and anybody who enjoys sad love songs can still enjoy Johnson’s soft and mellow tones through his recordings. Now most of his releases are classified as country and not available locally. Country music is considered too American for the local market and only a few country artists make hits out here. Johnson is actually one of them. But thanks to the web, we can now listen to all types of music and you can have a feast with Johnson’s songs country or otherwise.
The Then And Now album is the best bet for Johnson at his best. It mixes his early pop recordings like Bluer Than Blue and I’ll Always Love You with later country hits like Give Me Wings and Crying Shame and with the recent, most notably a divine duet of Whenever I Call You Friend with the great Country and Bluegrass star Allison Kraus.
Listeners will be glad to find out that the old favorites have been lovingly remastered and sound even better than they remember. Also included are Almost Like Being In Love, Happier Days, This Night Won’t Last Forever, The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder and That’s That.
For those of you who are only now discovering the so under-rated Johnson, other songs to check out are Sailing Without A Sail, Two In Love, The Very First Time, You Can Call Me Blue, Blame It On The Rain, You’re Not Easy To Forget, Home Free, There’s A Love and his beautiful duets, I Love You By Heart with Sylvia and It Must Be You with Juice Newton.
However, I have just one beef. I can’t seem to find Johnson’s ultimate heartbreak song, Doors, anywhere. I’ve looked online and checked out his available discography. Still no Doors, which is really unfortunate because it is one of his best. Remember how it goes.
“Why does my heart just keep on beating/ why do my arms just keep on reaching/ to someone who’s no longer there/ what can I say besides I’m sorry/ what can I say to change your mind/ what can I do to make tomorrow yours and mine.”