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Johnny Bristol Biography: Family, Career, Songs, Awards, and Death

Johnny Bristol


John William “Johnny” Bristol, Sr., composer, singer, and producer, was born on February 3, 1939, in Morganton, North Carolina. He went to Olive Hill High School in the city and sang with a singing group called The Jackets at school functions. He graduated in 1957 and enlisted in the US Air Force in 1958. He was a member of the soul duo “Johnny & Jackey” with Robert Lewis “Jackey” Beavers while in the service. Bristol married Memphis, Tennessee native Maude Dickerson in 1959. John William Bristol, Jr. was their son, and Shanna Bristol was their daughter. In 1962, he completed his military service.


By 1963, Bristol had divorced his first wife and married Iris Gordy, the sister of Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records. Karla Gordy Bristol was their only child. Bristol was a producer and lyricist at Motown at the time. He contributed to the success of many artists and single hits, including Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1967) and Jr. Walker & The All-Stars’ 1968 hit “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” and David Ruffin’s 1969 hit “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me).”

He was also the male vocal response to Diana Ross on The Supremes’ final number one hit, “Someday We’ll Be Together” (1970). Bristol left Motown in 1973 to work as a producer for CBS and pursue a solo career.

Bristol signed a contract with MGM in 1974. His first single, “Hang on In There, Baby,” peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for 17 weeks. It also peaked at number two on the charts and number three in the United Kingdom. Bristol received two nominations for best R&B vocal performance, male, and best new artist of the year at the 17th Annual Grammy Awards in 1974.

In 1974, his single “You And I” peaked at number 49 and stayed there for seven weeks. “Memories Don’t Leave Like People Do,” his second single released that year, failed to chart in the United States but peaked at number 52 in the United Kingdom. “Reaching Out for Your Love,” a popular ballad by Bristol, was released in 1975 but was only moderately successful. In 1977, his song “Do It To My Mind” peaked at number 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained on the chart for 11 weeks, while his other hits that year, “You Turned Me On to Love,” peaked at number 38 and “I Sho Like Groovin’ with Ya,” peaked at number 47. “Waiting on Love” peaked at number 27 on the R&B chart in the United States in 1978.

Bristol collaborated with Amii Stewart on “My Guy/My Girl,” which was released by Atlantic Hansa Records in 1980. The song peaked at number 63 and remained on the charts for eight weeks. It was his final charting single. Bristol’s most recent studio album, Life and Love, was released in Japan in 1996. His last public appearance was in 2002, when he sang “Someday We’ll Be Together” with Mary Wilson of The Supremes on a Public Broadcasting Service television special.

On March 21, 2004, at the age of 65, John William “Johnny” Bristol, Sr. died at St. Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital in Howell, Michigan. In 2009, he was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame posthumously.



Written by How Africa News

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