Today is the 38th birthday of Jesse Johnson, the former guitarist for Morris
Day & the Time, the '80s funk band from Minneapolis that followed in the
footsteps of its mentor, Prince, the king of the Twin Cities'
pop/soul music scene. Johnson is a student of the Jimi Hendrix school
of guitar playing and has been recording hard-rocking funk-rock on his own
since the Time broke up in the late '80s. He has also produced and
worked with a number of artists, including Paula Abdul, Kool Skool and
As a youth in Illinois, Johnson loved such musicians as Hendrix, Led
Zeppelin, Curtis Mayfield and traditional blues artists including B.B.
King and Muddy Waters. Johnson joined the Time, who began playing
together in 1981, and they went on to become the first musical pet
project of The Artist, back when he was known as Prince. The Time were
fronted by the outrageously cocky but charming Morris Day, but a key
part of the band's sound was Johnson's rock-influenced guitar.
The Time's only big hit album was 1984's Ice Cream Castle, which had
pop appeal in the form of such radio favorites as "Jungle Love" and "The
Bird." The album also benefited from the popularity of the Minneapolis
funk sound that was in the spotlight because of the enormous success of
Prince's Purple Rain album and film of that year. The Time even
appeared in the movie with Prince. Other albums by the Time in the '80s
include their '81 eponymous debut album and the next year's What
Time Is It?.
Johnson grew restless in the band and, by the end of
the decade, the Time broke up. Day's solo career was much less
successful than his high profile in the band indicated that it might be, but
Johnson went on to make critically acclaimed music. Other Time members
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis became one of the most successful production
teams in recording history, jump-starting the career of Janet Jackson
and recording the Human League and others.
Johnson's well-received albums include 1985's Jesse Johnson's
Revue, 1986's Shockadelica, which featured "Crazay" with Sly
Stone, and 1988's Every Shade of Love (all on A&M Records).
After signing with Dinosaur Entertainment Corp., Johnson released
Bare My Naked Soul, a bluesy outing, in 1996. The single "My
Life" received considerable AOR airplay. He also has produced for
artists such as After 7, Wendy & Lisa and Paula Abdul (Johnson worked
with her on her biggest success, 1989's Forever Your Girl), and he has
written songs for Sheila E., Janet Jackson and others. Johnson's work
has been featured on soundtracks to such films as "White Men Can't
Jump," "Pretty In Pink," "The Five Heartbeats" and "A Time To Kill."
In 1990, the Time re-formed, with Johnson, for the critically hailed
Pandemonium. It wasn't a lasting reunion, but the group has been
touring for the last few years in various incarnations. Johnson is
reportedly working on another solo album, as well as participating in a
new Time release.
Other birthdays: Irmin Schmidt (Can), 61; Roy Crewsdon (Freddie and the
Dreamers), 57; Gary Brooker (Procol Harum), 53; Mike Rossi (Status Quo), 49;
Rebbie Jackson, 48; Larry Blackmon (Cameo), 42; Mel Gaynor (Simple Minds),
39; and Melissa Etheridge,