Syl Johnson, Heavily-Sampled Grammy-Nominated Chicago Blues and R&B Singer, Dead at 85

Syl Johnson performs at the Old Town School of Folk Music in 2010. | Sun-Times file

Chicago soul treasure Syl Johnson, known as one of the most sampled artists ever thanks to his track “Different Strokes,” which has been used by a slew of notable hip-hop artists, has died at the age 85.

His family announced the news in a statement Sunday, though they didn’t reveal his cause of death.

“It is with extreme sadness that our family announces the passing of Soul & Blues Hall of Fame Legend, Syl Johnson,” his family said. “Dad, Brother, Grandfather, Great Grandfather, Uncle, Friend & Artist, he lived his life as a singer, musician, and entrepreneur who loved Black music.”

Mr. Johnson’s death is the third big loss for the blues community in the last eight days.

His older brother, Blues Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy Johnson, died Monday at his home in Harvey at age 93; and drummer and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Sam Lay died Jan. 29 at 86.

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SOURCE: Chicago Sun-Times, Madeline Kenney and Tom Schuba