Michael Johnson Photo

Everything Else


A Conversation with... David Greene (Recording engineer of There Is A Breeze) Dec 18, 2015 by Bill King

D.G: I had kind of a mantra if you will…..when I did a record and somebody listened to it, I don’t care if they love it or hate it as long as they did one or the other, because it does something to them.

B.K: Nothing worse than being indifferent.

D.G: There’s a lot of wallpaper around. There’s a song I did with this folk artist Michael Johnson from, I think, Minneapolis who plays guitar and sings and if he’s sitting there playing and you walk by and have to stop and listen. He’s very compelling. It was an album that was actually started by Phil Ramone and Peter Yarrow in New York for Atlantic and they blew eighty percent of the budget on three tunes so they shipped to Canada and gave to Chris Dedrick and myself and one of the tunes we did was a song written by Rodgers and Hammerstein in 1949 for the show South Pacific. At the time there was a great uproar about the song because it’s about race. The lyric is very simple, “You've got to be taught, to hate and fear, you've got to be taught, from year to year, it's got to be drummed, in your dear little ear, you've got to be carefully taught. You've got to be taught to be afraid, of people whose eyes are oddly made, and people whose skin is a diff'rent shade, you've got to be carefully taught. You've got to be taught before it's too late, before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate, you've got to be carefully taught!” That is so in tune with what’s going on today.

Michael Johnson Photo

I remember he recorded this in NYC and borrowed my Martin 00028 (1936 000-28 herringbone, pictured above) to play on the recording b/c he didn't bring a steel string with him or didn't like the sound of the one he had. I don't remember. I do recall he came down to my apartment to pick it up and delivered it back to me promptly that evening. So my guitar is on that record. I don't know which song. :)
Raun MacKinnon Burnham (songwriter of Lucky Stars and Circle of Fifths)

Michael Johnson Photo I loved the way Michael and Leo played. Michael called me after they had recorded my tune "In your eyes". "Crow, I think we turned your song into a barn dance!" I loved it.
Crown Johnson Evans (Songwriter of In Your Eyes)
Photo of Crow by Judy Weiser

Michael Johnson Photo
Artwork for Rooty Toot Toot For the Moon single 1973, Greg Gray

Acoustic Guitar

Performer: made an unscheduled appearance, singing "Winner in Your Eyes"
Acoustic Guitar

Folk Vocalist (winner)

Performer (with Mary Jane Alm) video below

Country/Bluegrass/Folk - Male Vocalist (winner) video below

Classical Guitar (winner)
Country Guitar (winner)
Country Male Vocals (winner)
Folk Guitar
Folk Male Vocals (winner)
Recording Country

2001 New Year's Resolutions
I've heard it said that when you renounce something you give it exactly the same amount of power it takes you to fight against it. The result is a standoff and unlimately a failure. This New Years, I'll make my resolution to stop smoking. I hope to be able to watch myself in the battle. I have a bet with Nanci Griffith - a dollar a cigarette. It's just the kind of thing that friends do. But the co-dependency of helping/quitting, is its own little setup. Mostly, the thing I want to do differently in 2001 is to watch myself more often as I do my stuff. I figure I've been asleep for a long time and it's time to be a witness to my life. I don't plan to change that much, I just wanna watch.
Michael Johnson December 22, 2000

Michael Johnson Photo

"Bluer Than Blue" by Michael Johnson peaks at #12 in USA 40 Years Ago #OnThisDay (July 8 1978)

Music Video of the Day: Bluer than Blue by Michael Johnson (1978, directed by ????) Posted on August 18, 2021 by Jedadiah Leland

On August 1st, 1980, MTV premiered and played a total of 116 music videos over a 24 hour period. The 18th video that they played was for Michael Johnson’s Bluer than Blue, which features the singer singing about a failing relationship in a blue-tinged house.

This was an early music video, made three years before MTV even premiered so it looks fairly primitive to modern eyes. It’s still a step up from the performance clips that were used for most music videos during the late 70s. It actually has a narrative, albeit a simple one.

Michael Johnson Photo

Some day Michael Johnson will be able to transcend the critics, experts, and the self-proclaimed purists who block his road to success among the general public. Until that time his fans will have to continue to answer to the questions of "Michael Johnson?"
--Excerpt from a 1975 review of For All You Mad Musicians

On April 21, 2018, on a snow covered Colorado mountain, Michael's ashes were spread at the feet of a Bristlecone Pine.
Michael Johnson Photo
MJ's siblings

Leo Kottke in Concert, Worcester, Massachusetts
May 1973

I wrote that last tune in collaboration with a guy named Michael Johnson. [some clapping] Have you heard of him? Jeez. Are you from Minneapolis? Ah! Isn't that a thrilling town to grow up in?

Michael had the worst moment on stage that I've ever heard of. He was playing at the Earl of Old Town in Chicago, the second of his last set, and he threw up on his audience. You know, the front row is a lot closer in a club than it is here. They were fans of his though.
(Listen to Leo tell it below)

About That Song: The Gypsy in the Photograph

Crow Johnson Evans

Listen here to hear Crow talking this post for you.. .**

My mother was a free spirit. Each April she would put together her “gypsy wagon,” toss in a few things and take off. Destinations unknown and return date not specified. Even my grandfather said my mom and I were gypsies (“Roma” to be more polite and culturally sensitive).

It’s not that surprising that I became a traveling musician for much of my life. As a storytelling songwriter, I had this song “spill out” practically finished, with internal rhyme and all.

Michael Johnson recorded it in 1975 on his early album. I put it on my first solo album in 1980, recorded with voice, banjo, and windchimes from my privy. The two versions are fun to compare. I’ll see if I can include links to each of them for you.

Here are the lyrics…

The Gypsy in the Photograph by Crow Johnson (ASAP)

The gypsy in the photograph
Has a laugh you’ve seen before
Some nights you’d give anything
Just to bring her/him to your door
Well the old ones say that your mama strayed
But nobody’s talkin’ ’bout the beds she made
You could hear her laugh on a sunny day
Comin’ down the road with a gypsy blade
Looking through a dusty trunk, amid the junk you found an album
Though you never knew her well, you could tell she loved her fun
Well the old ones say that your mama strayed
But nobody’s talkin’ ’bout the beds she made
You could hear her laugh on a sunny day
Comin’ down the road with a gypsy blade
In a dream you dreamed there was something very strange
And you woke up quickly but you still could hear the names
Magpie, evil eye
You won’t take, you won’t take
You won’t take this one’s life
Grandma said when you were born
That the ram’s horn filled the glade
The damp night and your mama’s cries
Made your eyes a darker shade
Well the old ones say that your mama strayed
But nobody’s talkin’ ’bout the beds she made
You could hear her laugh on a sunny day
Comin’ down the road with a gypsy blade
Then a golden charm that she gave to you one night
What was it that she softly cried when you were out of sight
Oh Magpie, evil eye
You won’t take, you won’t take, you won’t take this one
You won’t take, you won’t take, you won’t take this one
You won’t take, you won’t take
You won’t take this one’s life
The gypsy in the photograph
Has a laugh you’ve seen before

Here’s my original recording from 1980… enjoy.

Michael was such an exquisite singer and guitarist. Here’s his version live from a concert in 1984 at U of WA.

Was that fun for you? It’s a bit like two different photographs taken of the same moment in time. The same but different. I love how a song that “fits” an artist becomes a garment he/she can wear comfortably and carry to others’ ears.

About that song: Dirt Road Downhome Style (Bag End)

By Crow Johnson Evans

Click here for AUDIO of this blog:

Crow and Arthur Evans When does your family turn the place upside down? December is the month we do it in anticipation of an extended family gathering that’s gone on for nearly 50 years. Arthur and his Sierra Club friends established— The ‘Possum Holler Annual Wild Foods Party. The inspiration was Euell Gibbons, who wrote: “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” in 1962. He was an expert on foraging healthy nutrition and spending time in Nature.

Each year friends and family come to ‘Possum Holler with a potluck dish that is foraged or stalked. It’s a great time to catch up with each other and share slideshows of the year’s adventures.

If you haven’t guessed, I am living the life I dreamed about decades ago. I wrote “BagEnd (or Dirt Road Down-Home Style)” in 1969 in a cowman’s cottage 90 kilometers west of London in the UK. My then-husband (PJ Johnson) and I were part of the second great folk scare— a melding of folk, soft rock, with a smattering of jazz.

When our business and personal lives became tentative, I wrote this lovesong for country life and the dream of a true home. I recorded it in 1989 on the “As the Crow Flies” album.

Michael Johnson (1944-2017) marvelous musician and former brother-in-law learned it from us. You can hear his 1970 version on YouTube (see below).

On Michael’s passing, the 50-year-old rehearsal reel-to-reel tapes came back to me. Cindy McArthur who manages Michael’s website and fan club www.mjblue.com returned them.

Crow and PJ Johnson. 1969. photo credit: K. Markham

Rush Beesley (who also produced my second album) helped rescue that tape and produced “Raw, Spiced, and Seasoned” which came out this year. It is a handful of tunes raw and the same tracks– artistically enhanced.

So, back to the story,— I lived in a cowman’s cottage in England and dreamed a song about a life that I now live in the deep woods… dirt road, down-home style. And today my true love and I are turning the house upside down in anticipation of a glorious gathering. May your dreams come true too.

You can hear all of my songs for free (or purchase) at crowjohnson.bandcamp.com.
Or you may visit www.crowspun.com/store/ for recordings, books, curios, and signed artist prints.
Until next time this is Crow Johnson Evans wishing you the very best from Auntie Crow’s Corner here at CrowSpun.