MORE sad news from the world of music: it has been reported that Mancunian soul voice extraordinaire Denise Johnson has died unexpectedly at the age of 56.
She began her singing career in a gospel setting, with that effortless, soaring voice, and moved through a stint with Maze to become one of the defining voices of the acid house generation with Primal Scream on Screamadelica, memorably taking lead on the classic “Don’t Fight It, Feel It”: watch the video below, and remember the halcyon times.
She later worked with artists such as Electronic, Ian Brown, K-Klass, Bernard Butler, A Certain Ratio, Beth Orton and The Charlatans.
The music world took to Twitter to express its sadness. Sleaford Mods said: “Very sad to hear of the sudden passing of Denise Johnson.”
The Waterboys’ Mike Scott said: “I’m sorry to hear the great singer Denise Johnson has died. She sang with Primal Scream, Electronic + many others. And with me. On ‘Questions’ her vocal outshines mine. Travel on well, Denise. I’m sorry we won’t get to work together again in this life.”
Doves took to Twitter to say: “We are all devastated to hear the news that our old friend and all round beautiful person Denise Johnson has passed away. What a loss for the many people who loved her.”
808 State said: “I can’t believe the news that Denise Johnson has passed. Her voice sews so many memories together in many contexts – but most of all she gave the best hugs – but you can hear that, can’t you?”
Rowetta Idah, the Happy Mondays’ co-vocalist and childhood friend, remembered her: ” I have so many great memories of Denise from when we were young. We just used to sing and laugh like naughty schoolgirls all the time. A great loss to Manchester and music. My condolences to her family and loved ones.”
And New Order’s Stephen Morris said: “Shocked and devastated to hear of the passing of Denise Johnson. An absolutely beautiful lady. Rest in peace Denise x”
Perhaps surprisingly, she had never lent that vocal talent to a full-length project under her name. Her debut solo LP, an acoustic set provisionally entitled Where Does It Go, had actually been pencilled in for a September 25th release this year.
One of the great British soul voices of our times: Denise, Backseat Mafia salutes you.