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Updated 8/25/2019

Dan Koopmans
Orchestra Hall memory
Many years ago, I put together a cassette of songs that a friend offered to send to Michael. I put probably a dozen songs on it, but resisted putting one particular song. It wasn't a bad song, but I didn't think it was good enough to include. My friends insisted and eventually I agreed. It was an amazing moment when Michael contacted me and said he wanted to perform a song that I'd sent. Wouldn't you know it, it was the one song I hadn't wanted to send. Michael sent me free tickets to see him at Orchestra Hall and it was one the most thrilling and memorable nights of my life when he introduced me from the stage and sang "Minnesota Nights". Over the years, Michael and I ran into each other and he was always so kind and pleasant. What a tremendous talent and generous man he was. I still listen to him often. He was a great influence on my own music. He is still missed.

Following is an email from Michael to Dan 9/8/2001
Not too unusual, re: tunings. I mean, I tune down a whole step on the 6th string, and I capo up frequently, but nothing exotic. It's a compliment to think you hear those possibilities in the music though. Dan, you are so gifted and I rarely get to say so. I know your spiritual calling is so important to you, and I know that the gifts you have are dedicated to that.
A perfect match.
Best to you,
Michael j

Minnesota Nights 1983

Tom Knott (YouTube comment) I saw him on this tour with Eddie rabbit he broke a guitar string and some lady picked it up I was totally blown away by the show. I was 17 and listened to heavy metal. My older brother and I listened to the song that's that. He told me that song was his song because he had just broke up with his girlfriend and had carved their names in a tree and he was gonna go cut it down. I feel in love with the song and bought a couple albums. 30 years later I listen to that's that and realize he special that song is.

In the 1970’s, I listened to WCCO-FM which played music you wouldn’t hear on Top 40 stations. They hosted a three hour folk show every Friday night which often featured one hour live in-studio performers like Michael.

One day in 1975, they played a song without mentioning the name or singer after so I called the station and was told it was “A Friend of Mine is Going Blind” by John Dawson Read. At that time, I was in high school and when I'd visit Michael, he’d have a stack of LPs given to him as promotions and he'd say look them them and take what I wanted. One day I found that John Dawson Read LP in the stack. I told Michael there was an incredible song on it but without asking about it, he just told me to take the LP, which I did.

Fast forward to around 1982. Michael called and wanted to drop in to play me a new demo of his. I sat in the rocking chair and Michael sat on the couch as the cassette started playing and it was Michael singing “A Friend of Mine is Going Blind”. As soon as I recognized it, I remarked, “Oh I have this record.” Michael leapt up exclaiming “You do?” and I nearly fell off the chair. That memory is still so clear.

So I told him about how he gave me the LP. I don’t know where he found the song - either he told me and I don’t remember or I didn’t ask - but I will be asking John if MJ told him. But I do remember Michael mentioning the extensive search he went through (no internet back then) for the publisher, writer, lyrics, etc. He asked to borrow the LP. He promised many times to return it but evidently it didn’t make the move to Nashville. I bought another copy online many years later.

in 1997 I started Michael's website and in 2000 added a message board. In 2002, someone posted to the board asking for details of this song after hearing Michael sing it in concert. Finally in 2003, Michael gave me permission to upload the mp3 demo to the website for anyone to listen to and download. After John's son discovered the many board postings and the mp3, and in December of that year, John himself posted on the board and he and Michael started communicating and a warm friendship ensued - I was proud to have had a small part in that. (You can find all the archived messages at mjboardarchives.html.)

John's website: But generally all was quiet until in 2005 when someone mentioned that Michael Johnson, a brilliant American ballad singer, had covered 'A Friend of Mine' on his website and that people were leaving messages to find out if John was still alive and kicking... and that's when it all started again.

John’s Wikipedia page: John Dawson Read is an English singer-songwriter. Born in Wokingham, Berkshire, England, Read first came to prominence in 1975 with his debut album A Friend of Mine Is Going Blind, released on Chrysalis Records. The album's title song was written by Read for a friend of his who suffered from muscular dystrophy. Read credits his friend with having been a writing inspiration for years, as well as being responsible for his debut album, having sent Read's songs to publishers. Read’s second album, Read On, was released in 1976, again on Chrysalis. After this release Read seemed to disappear from the music business. Fans had little success finding information on Read until singer-songwriter Michael Johnson put an MP3 of “A Friend of Mine Is Going Blind” on his website. Many Read fans began communicating through the site, and this was one factor which encouraged. Read to re-enter the music world after spending most of the time between 1976 and 2005 in a business partnership in marketing. Andrew Rose of Pristine Audio remastered A Friend of Mine Is Going Blind and Read On. [1] In 2005, Read released his third CD after a nearly 30 year absence from the music world.
A Friend of Mine is Going Blind

My friend's birthday

I was lucky to represent Michael in the 90's. I wasn't a great agent. I couldn't make myself sell "artists" that I didn't think were artists. I was happy to go full throttle for Michael. I had loved his music in my high school years and I loved his Nashville product. I would push any venue or promoter with full confidence that they would be blown away with his talent and showmanship. It was a joy to represent him and become a friend.

Michael's birthday was the day before mine and in 2009 he stopped by the house so I could give him a gift. I was sitting on the couch playing my guitar when he walked up on the porch and knocked. In his wonderful way, his eyes lit up and he said, "let's see whatcha got". I played some of my best stuff...almost numb with intimidation and he said, "Wow, you really get it...." Well let's just say I got the best birthday present ever.

I had been going through a rough patch and we were talking about it when I said something and he said, "that would be a great hook for a song". The next thing you know we had a couple of pads of paper and were writing and seemingly in no time we noticed the sun was coming up.

I would have to say it was best birthday ever. I got to write with one of the most talented artists I knew and I was lucky to call him a friend.

I got him a pillow and a sheet and a cat and we got some sleep. I was supposed to have a birthday breakfast with my girlfriend (now my wife) and I slept through it. She forgave me when I explained....like an excited little kid...why I had missed our date.

Every year this memory and so many others of Michael come back to mind and I listen to some of his music....and smile.

Adam Kindness

I interviewed Michael in advance of his show at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. It was 1979, shortly after “Bluer Than Blue” peaked.

The concert series was titled “Catch a Rising Star,” probably another way to say “We don’t have the budget for big names.” My assumption was that Michael signed the contract before the song hit, and he had the integrity to fulfill the obligation.

It was my first full-time job as a television news reporter. Since this was an entertainment interview, I threw him a softball, not even a question. It was, to the best of my recollection, “The series is called ‘Catch a Rising Star,’ but it looks like you’ve already made it big.”

I thought his answer was classic: “Oh yeah, here’s how big I am. When the limo showed up to take me to the airport for the tour, all the neighbors raced over to the house. They wanted to know who died!”

There’s no way the written version can do it justice. It was his manner that made the soundbite. He was one of the biggest things in the music industry at that moment. Yet, he was so kind and unassuming, not taking himself seriously at all, but simply glad to be a guy doing what he loved. It wasn’t phony humility, either. He was sincere… yes, just like one of the neighbors. I just wish I had saved the clip.

I bought a turntable a couple of years ago to enjoy once again many of the albums I saved from the 1960s-1980s, including a couple of his. They still hold up, and I still enjoy the heck out of them.

Peter Casella

When I was little, my stepmom introduced me to Michael Johnson. I was about 12, it was 1982, and when I first heard his voice, I was captivated. She would play him on the amazing stereo she had, and no matter how bad things were for me, his music made everything better. She would let me skip school one day a year, and take me and a couple of friends, along with our dog, Ruby, up to Mt. Rainier for the day and we would listen to some of his music on the way. I am so grateful to her for bringing his music into the house and the car. He was one of the first musicians she taught me about and his music and his voice have always been with me. I think he played at her college in Montana and she saw him live. I didn't know he had passed away. I just decided to order a cd from his site, and that was when I found out. We have lost one of the greatest musicians. I am thankful I can still get his music, and I am grateful my stepmom introduced me to him as his music enriched my life.

Sorry I don't recall the exact date, but likely it was October 1972 (Oct 1973, or Oct 1974 are also possible). He played the homecoming concert for what was then called Dakota State College, Madison, South Dakota. So whatever actual date homecoming actually happened at this school, at least once in those years MJ was there on that date. Apparently, I pitched my yearbooks but do recall (for the research inclined) his photo(s) is in one of those yearbooks. At least I limited the date to a specific day in one of those three years. Dakota State College in South Dakota, maybe 600 students at the time, was not a haven for folk singers at the time--but someone there must have known about him to invite him to play that night.

He played a full concert in an old basketball arena after the homecoming football game. I think only a few folding chairs were set up. He sat on a wood stool with a bottle of wine on the floor next to the stool leg. I don't believe there was even a raised platform of any kind. He was on the same level as the crowd--which was very small.

I also don't recall what sound system there was but for sure it was pretty basic. I remember thinking he seemed lonely and certainly all alone as he was located about in the middle of the basketball court with people only at one end--but I was amazed he could play and sing so well with nothing other than a couple mikes and still keep most people's attention riveted.

I recall the football players stumbled in half-drunk and were a bit disruptive and taunting, but he handled them well and eventually they faded away. ASFAIK, he was completely by himself. He took a few swigs from the wine bottle during the concert and joked around a bit--seeing the state and quality of the audience. Were there fifty listeners? That may be generous. For his quality, I felt it was a shame and a waste for him to be there playing so well for so few.

I don't see other stops on your itinerary that match up to his travel to South Dakota that night, but he was certainly there. I followed him since that time as I've moved around the country and the world and believe I attended other concerts when I still lived in the States.

I remember back in the mid-80s seeing Michael Johnson play for the first time at Stewart Hall at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. I was sitting in the front row and kept requesting he play Poor Little Robin. It didn't make his set list, but the concert security staff took me and a few of my friends back to the green room after the concert. He played it for us there and I was on cloud nine! Many years later, he was doing annual gigs at Pioneer Place on Fifth in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I requested Poor Little Robin again at one of them and he played it! There is a cloud ten :-) I miss Michael so much, but am grateful for the gift of music that he left behind.
Sara G.

I met him a few times via coming over to a neighbor's home behind mine in late 1960's

Michael was dating one of the 8 sisters living by me - I remember him on their front porch playing his guitar - serenading Judy - One time when I came over Judy was sitting on the front steps gazing up at the sky.

When I finally asked her what she was doing - she told me that she and Michael had agreed to both look up at the moon at a designated moment with him off performing somewhere I believe or possibly back in college.
Craig Swank

Hi folks, I've always believed it best to grab the bull by the horns and see who wins. Those who know me well will tell you I'm not big on fear and if I decide to do something it WILL be done. We were all given just one beautiful life...so live it! How does this relate to music ?

In the late 1980s I went to see a show at the world famous Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. I went with friend of mine to watch a performer by the name of Michael Johnson. Michael was famous for his number 1 pop hit " Bluer than Blue " but there was so much more to this incredible man. Outside of several hit songs in pop and in country Michael had a trio in the early folk days with Chad Mitchell and John Denver. He was so impassioned by his music that he moved to Spain for several years to study classical guitar and became a virtuoso of the instrument. Now that's grabbing the bull by the horns ! Michael struggled hard like all of us to "make it " but make it he did.

After watching an incredible show and being absolutely blown away by Michael's guitar playing I turned to my friend and said "Man, I want to write with him." My friend responded "Who wouldn't." "Well, I'm going to ask him," I said. "You're nuts," my friend laughed. That response surprised me because the person I was with was a current recording artist himself and a great songwriter but Michael's reputation intimidated him. So I walked over to Michael and said "Hi, I'm Hobo Jim from Alaska. I'm writing in town for awhile and I'd love to try to write a song with you". Michael looked at me and said, "Are you open Monday?"....Done deal.

Monday morning.......Michael Johnson was coming to MY house to write and I didn't even have an idea for a song. An hour before he arrived I opened the Bible to see what were the first words to pop out. I had turned to Genesis, the story of Cain and Able. Now I had my Idea. That day Michael and I wrote an incredible song that we both performed for years. It's called......." The Line."

That song was the beginning of a writing partnership that would create dozens of songs and put Michael and I together on the road for dozens of shows. But more so, it began a great long time friendship.

Had I not reached for that bull I would have missed so much in my life. That's the whole reason for this post. If you're an aspiring songwriter, performer, artist, or anything else of any age, NOTHING CAN STOP YOU BUT YOURSELF. Have no fear, just go for it, take your blows and win.

Sadly, Michael passed away last summer. I was in Alaska performing when I got the news and it made for a rough night. In fact its made a rough year. His death was taken hard because his life and light were so full. I'll never forget this talented showman.

Though none of the songs Michael and I wrote have been recorded you can catch a few (including The Line) on Youtube.

Thanks Michael, I hope you've found peace at last.
Just another story from the road...Hobo Jim (Facebook post, January 2018)

I first saw him in a Woodstock, IL couple's basement where they hosted new musicians. His hands were so strong the guitar neck flexed when he played. I'll never forget.
Madge Miner Russell

I remember when Michael was at the Strand-Capital in York. I was a Hospitality volunteer and assigned to backstage. Michael was the most unassuming performer. Some had me running in circles to meet their "demands". Not Michael. When I noticed that he hadn't eaten any of the provided dinner, I asked if there was something wrong with the food. He said no, that it had alot of cheese and he stayed away from dairy before a performance. Asked what he wanted instead. He just looked at me. I told him I'd get whatever he wanted. Again, he just looked at me and then said it wasn't necessary. Told him I was there to make sure he had what he wanted & if I didn't I'd probably be fired. He said he didn't want that to happen & said just carrots, celery & maybe fruit and water. I got everything & put it in his dressing room with a note that I was a volunteer & couldn't be fired. Shortly there after I heard a laugh coming from the direction of his dressing room. That night I had the pleasure of enjoying his performance from backstage -- standing beside Ricky Van Shelton. I was in the presence of 2 amazing performers -- and handsome men!!