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Johnny Gill

Graduated From Gospel To R&b

Johnny Gill Jr. was born on May 22, 1966, in Washington, DC, the fourth son of Johnny and Annie Gill. The senior Gill was a Baptist minister who raised his family according to scripture. While secular music such as R&B was forbidden, gospel was embraced and the family formed the group Wings of Faith and, later, The Gill Special. By the age of eight, Johnny Jr., whose deep, baritone voice was already emerging, became the family's main vocalist. Despite his father's efforts, Gill could not resist the pull of R&B. One of his childhood friends was Stacy Lattisaw, a teen R&B sensation on the Atlantic Records label. She encouraged Gill to record a demo tape. "She always knew I could sing and she told the president of her record company about me and that's how everything took place," Gill told The Jamaica Observer.

Gill's voice, mature beyond its years, impressed Atlantic executives and they immediately signed him to the label's imprint, Cotillion. Gill was just 16 at the time. "Recording an album was the hardest thing to do," Gill recalled to Essence. "You start to ask yourself, 'What if this fails?' But it never dawned on me in the studio, because the producers were so great to work with." The result, titled Johnny Gill, came out in 1983. Despite the modest hit single "Super Love," the album was lackluster. The following year Gill had more success with Perfect Combination, a joint effort with Lattisaw. The album's title song reached the top ten and revealed the depth of Gill's vocal abilities to a broad fan base. In 1985 Atlantic released Gill's sophomore effort, Chemistry. It spawned the song "Half Crazy," which went to number 26 on Billboard's R&B charts.

By 1988 Gill had left Atlantic and signed a new contract with Motown Records. Meanwhile, the boy band New Edition was looking for a new singer. New Edition had rocketed to fame in 1983 with the megahit "Candy Girl." After a string of more hits, lead singer Bobby Brown decided to pursue a solo career. Enter Gill. He had been friends with members of the group since their debut and, according to the New Edition Web site, "[the group] would always joke that if Johnny could hit one of their dance steps right, he could be in the group." With the understanding that he would continue to record as a soloist for Motown, Gill joined New Edition, who were then signed to MCA Records.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: E(mily) R. Frank (1967-) Biography - Personal to Martha Graham (1893–1991) BiographyJohnny Gill Biography - Graduated From Gospel To R, Scored A String Of Chart-topping Hits, Reunited With New Edition