Category Archives: R&B Hive

R&B Hive: Brothers Johnson “I’ll Be Good To You”

Being a video professional, I’ve been to more weddings than 99.9% of the population. I’ve worked on weddings in several states and of various ethnic and religious ceremonies; Church weddings, beach weddings, country club weddings, backyard & banquet hall weddings, lake weddings—even at an aquarium and on a yacht.

 

I’ve heard the songs (Barry Manilow writes them if I recall) numerous DJs play at these as well as the collective “Borg Booty Mix” of current Wedding Top 40 and Wedding’s Greatest Hits. Maybe Rhino Records will walk down that aisle in the future.

 

One wedding I had to reposition my camera during the ceremony then felt something dripping on me—my vest had to be dry cleaned afterwards as the back of it was covered with caked on candle wax. Candles were melting from the crossbeams of the historic rustic barn and I looked like I just arrived from a Dominatrix appointment for the rest of the evening.

 

“I’ll Be Good To You” is more than worthy of a couple’s first dance. It’s a tune deserving inclusion into matrimonial mixes and wedding video montages. It’s the kind of music that’s injection mold for memories.

 

Yet I’ve never heard this amazing song played at a wedding and think it’s a tragedy. “I’ll Be Good To You” is more than worthy of a couple’s first dance. It’s a tune deserving inclusion into matrimonial mixes and wedding video montages. It’s the kind of music that’s injection mold for memories.

 

“I’ll Be Good To You” is a track off the Brothers Johnson 1976 debut album Look Out For #1. The song reached #1 on the R&B charts and peaked at #3 on the singles charts. In 1989 “I’ll Be Good To You” reached #1 again on the R&B charts this time covered by Ray Charles along with Chaka Khan.

 

In both cases Quincy Jones (the other Q after James Bond’s) was at the “singles event.” He was producer to the Brothers Johnson for the original version and the Ray Charles & Chaka Khan cover was a track off his Back On The Block album. “I’ll Be Good To You” was also covered by Vanessa Williams with James “D–Train” Williams (no relation to her) on Vanessa’s 2005 album Everlasting Love.




George and Louis, The Brothers Johnson grew up in Los Angeles, played in area bands, backed The Supremes, became session musicians and Jedi Apprentices of Quincy Jones before going solo.

 

The biggest singles of their career were “Strawberry Letter 23” (originally recorded by Shuggie Otis), “I’ll Be Good to You”, and “Stomp!” which came out years before the theatrical show of the same name. The track “Get The Funk Out Ma Face” on Look Out For #1 was written with Quincy Jones and also released as a single reaching #30 on the Billboard charts.

 

Another track on their debut album, “Thunder Thumbs And Lightnin’ Licks” contains the nicknames of the Brothers Johnson. Codenames far less encrypted than “Mac Daddy” and “Daddy Mac” because they were actually in a band not the CIA like Kris Kross. Actually as far as my Intel is concerned, Steve Jobs was the Mac Daddy (well really Steve Wozniak & Jeff Raskin but it works better as a joke).

 

Guitarist George Johnson “coulda been a contender” in the Keith Jarrett look alike contest but his codename here is “Lightnin’ Licks” while his bass slapping brother Louis Johnson is “Thunder Thumbs.” From the sound of it, thumb wrestling a guy like Louis would’ve been a bad idea.

 

While not as well known as other legendary Funk/R&B bassists like Larry GrahamBootsy Collins, & Bernard Edwards, EVERYBODY knows Louis Johnson’s playing…

 

While not as well known as other legendary Funk/R&B bassists like Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, & Bernard Edwards, EVERYBODY knows Louis Johnson’s playing…

 

There’s just a little tune called “Billie Jean” that he was the session player for. Okay, so now his Badass Musician Index (BMI) just went through the roof. Actually Louis played on 3 Michael Jackson albums: Off the Wall, Thriller, and Dangerous.

 

Other tracks Louis Johnson was session bassist on:

“Off The Wall” —Michael Jackson
“I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near) “—Michael McDonald
(Warren G’s 1994 hit “Regulate” featuring Nate Dogg samples “I Keep Forgettin'”)

“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” —Michael Jackson
“Give Me the Night” —George Benson
“P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” —Michael Jackson




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Larry Graham of Sly And The Family Stone and Louis Johnson were pioneers of slap bass playing, with Larry considered the first to bring the style into prominence. Louis showcases his technique on their 1980 hit “Stomp!” (off the album Light Up The Night) which features a bass solo breakdown you’d think he pulled out the Popeye forearms for.

 

If you’re a liner notes junkie, you’ve seen Louis Johnson listed numerous times as he’s recorded or performed with over 60 artists including Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, Aretha Franklin, Phil Collins, Stevie Nicks, Kenny Loggins, John Mellencamp & Sister Sledge among others.

 

“I’ll Be Good To You” is an all star feel good party song like Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” just waiting to pollinate a positive vibe for all occasions. It can pack a dance floor and has a supremely infectious sing along chorus that mixes well with the leisurely waving of hands in the air in the simple act of celebrating life.

 

George Johnson’s vocals ooze sincerity, his inflections unwrapping layers of affectation. I’m usually good at deciphering lyrics but at first I thought George was singing “Stella” instead of “Said–A” in the first verse. Even though not the case, he demonstrated he can say “Stella” much more pleasantly than Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and that’s important.

 

In “I’ll Be Good To You”, the clean tone rhythm guitar chords are contrasted with some medium roast distortion on the lead line like the Commodore’s single “Easy.” This gives the lead guitar a soft fuzziness that takes on a dreamy synthesizer quality.

 

“I’ll Be Good To You” truly earns it’s wings with it’s chorus of female backing vocalists. At this point in the song, the sky opens up and listeners get a Soul Shower of Ambrosia

 

“I’ll Be Good To You” truly earns it’s wings with it’s chorus of female backing vocalists. At this point in the song, the sky opens up and listeners get a Soul Shower of Ambrosia:

The Charles/Khan cover is a more uptempo 80’s synth pop version. It gave Ray Charles his first #1 R&B single in over two decades:

What a jam! It’s a top shelf Jam Anthem like Chic’s “Good Times”, a liquid honeymoon groove. The groove in The Brothers Johnson tune “I’ll Be Good To You” is so laid back, it’s a recliner with a chilled beverage buoying a miniature yellow umbrella.

 

This is music silk listens to when it needs to feel comforted. This is what it sounds like when butter melts slowly on imported china next to a bottle of Champagne on the French Riviera.

 

That being said, I’ll be the first to admit love songs are an already overcrowded and overdone subject matter. Songs get recycled from previous regurgitations. Compared to Punk and Metal where there aren’t rations in the topic department, love songs are often terminally stereotypic and predictable. Silly Love Songs Sir Paul called them in the 1970’s—several decades later we’re probably at Zombie Love Songs status.

 

Pop song somnambulists sing about love and relationships like pull string dolls and the depth of their experience reflected in lyrics is watered down and wafer thin. It’s not like there’s a few decades of perspective packed into their “life virgin” verses like say Supertramp lyrics.

 

And what vast life experience can young pop stars actually bring to the table a few years after getting a driver’s license? Forget about songs about history, political and social issues they’re not even on the map yet.

 

Part of the socio–economic skid into preteen pop culture purgatory was that several decades ago, the record buying public was comprised of 30 to 40 year olds. The mainstream music consumer has gotten younger and younger with each successive generation.

 

Now the consumer base includes preteens buying music written by artists just a few years older. Here, relationships are the most common subject matter because it’s the most relatable experience to the cell phone starring young consumer tranquilized in the Twilight Zone of eternal texting. Most are still a few hundred selfies away from getting a Passport photo and experiencing the world outside a 4 inch screen.

 

Young celebrity culture also demonstrates that for all the wealth and fame they have, they make the same mistakes as the rest of the population. The breakup and divorce rate isn’t any less frequent among celebrities. Truth is, there are very few Paul Newmans and Joanne Woodwards in the entertainment industry—people who lived the song “I’ll Be Good To You”, married or not.

 

For generations breast fed on Rap & Hip Hop, it’s ear opening to hear what regal and elegance sounds like. There is life beyond angst and anger and higher vibes than the hormonal surges of youth.

 

For generations breast fed on Rap & Hip Hop, it’s ear opening to hear what regal and elegance sounds like. There is life beyond angst and anger and higher vibes than the hormonal surges of youth. There aren’t many love & relationships songs that have deeper depth and perspective behind rhymes and catchy melodies— even monotonous ones. “I’ll Be Good To You” is that museum piece that’s still more alive and vibrant that what I hear coming from the current crop having their media days in the sun.

 

“I’ll Be Good To You” comes from a time when people chose to ride a more positive vibe with the top down and more importantly from the top down. Although Louis Johnson left the planet in 2015 at age 60, his bass grooves from beyond the grave and thankfully so.

 

It bounced off the wall and broke down walls of race and gender. So why not inaugurate your life together with the Brothers Johnson? If you’re single, Why not renew your vow to “Treat Me Right” like Pat Benatar demanded because sometimes if you want something done right, you gotta to do it yourself.

 

If there’s no wedding bells in your future, just grab a pair of wedding bell bottoms from the past. In either case, You May Kiss the Vibe.

© Composer Yoga


Related Posts To Check Out:

George Michael: The Careless Whisperer

Celebrities And Fame: A Videographer’s Perspective

 

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Bill Douglas: Give Deep Peace A Chance

Shredders Of The Ivories Vol. 1

Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”

The Colors Of Rock: Songs

The Colors Of Rock: Artists

 

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