The First Lady of Purpose Music Group, songwriter, producer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist, Greenburgh’s Angela Johnson, is the first Under The Radar Spotlight artist we think you should all know about. For 17 years, she’s made it look easy: marriage, motherhood, music career, and managing the enviable feat of becoming one of the most consistently sought-after producers and songwriters in independent soul music.
Something magical happens when a woman arrives and stops being afraid of the resonating fullness of her power and the potential impact of her voice. It can take a while for it to happen—decades even. But, when that internal click happens—that freeing moment in her life when she embraces the magnificence of her flawlessly flawed mind, body, and gifts—new levels of inner peace and creativity are achieved and it’s a thing of wonder to behold.
No longer the girl next door or the superwoman who thought she had to be super to be extraordinary, here is Angela Johnson, unfiltered, unvarnished, and definitely un-bossed. The title of her sixth solo album, Naturally Me, says it all.
In the wake of the many senseless deaths of young African-American males nationwide at the hands of the police like Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Anthony Smith, Dario Tena, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Akai Gurley, and unfortunately, too many others to list them all here, Purpose Music Group’s Angela Johnson sang a ‘Black Boy Lullaby.’
Angela blessed us with her presence and sang her soul-stirring single Black Boy Lullaby—my favorite track—live in the studio on the People Before Politics Radio Show, Episode 37, in December 2016.
Whether at the hands of law enforcement or the hands of other black males, as Marvin Gaye so elegantly sang in 1971, ‘Brother brother, there’s far too many of you dying,’ Black Boys are dying at an alarming rate. Angela’s soulful track is just what the black community needed in these troubled times—an encouraging, inspiring, and uplifting melody that pays tribute to our black boys.
Written, produced, arranged, and sung by Angela, SoulBounce.com describes the ode to African-American young men from her CD, ‘Naturally Me’:
“Black Boy Lullaby” isn’t “your average, run-of-the-mill lullaby,” but it is a clarion call for Black boys to stand tall, be proud, and to not live in fear. Sung from the point of view of a mother writing a letter to her unborn son, Johnson encourages this young king to never let anyone dull his light but to be aware that there are some out there who may harbor ill will toward him for no other reason than the color of his skin. Angela’s impassioned lyrics are punctuated by her soulful delivery, gospel-style harmonies, and a bluesy Hammond organ.
“I’m voicing my opinions about things that I think are wrong in the world today. I’m being more political, talking about what’s affecting my family and community. I’m putting myself out there, even though I’ve been afraid to.
I wanted to talk about things that are relevant but that many people aren’t talking about,” says Johnson.
Angela was ever shy when it came to music, a path she’s always taken seriously. Playing piano by age four, violin by nine, and rocking the church as an organist, choir director, and featured performer by adolescence, she went quickly from teenage Baptist phenom to the high school musical star of such local shows as Godspell. The eldest of four, Johnson’s family encouraged her formative years as an aspiring musician through college and beyond.
Upon enrolling at the State University of New York at Purchase (SUNY) to further her study in violin, Johnson soon met her future Cooly’s Hot Box bandmates and writing partner, Christian Urich. Together, the eclectic soul and acid jazz band landed an all-too-brief deal with Polygram Records, despite a trifecta of international dance hits (“We Don’t Have To Be Alone,” “What A Surprise,” and “Make Me Happy”).
Nonplussed, Johnson and the group inked a subsequent deal with Virgin Records in 2002 and released the band’s critically acclaimed debut, Take It. Leaning in before the concept gained currency, Johnson decided to express her independent artistic vision distinct from Cooly’s and simultaneously recorded her solo debut, They Don’t Know (Purpose), while also contributing to the songwriting and production of Take It. They Don’t Know and its radio hit “Ordinary Things” did what Johnson had done since being that big-voiced child behind the organ keys—distinguish herself as a woman apart.
While she may not be a household name to many, Anglea has anything to prove to anyone; she is the real deal, and I encourage all reading this to check her out.
For more information or to check out her music visit Angela Johnson’s website.