James P. Johnson

From Sajun.org

James Price Johnson (February 1, 1894 - November 17, 1955) was a pianist and composer. With Luckey Roberts, Johnson was one of the originators of the stride style of piano playing.

Johnson was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His family moved to New York City in 1908. His first professional engagement was at Coney Island in 1912.

Johnson's tune "Charleston" (which debuted in the Broadway show Runnin' Wild in 1923, although by some accounts Johnson had written it years earlier) became one of the most popular tunes and arguably the definitive dance number of the Roaring 1920s. His other hits included "You've Got to Be Modernistic", "Keep Off the Grass", "Old Fashioned Love", "A Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid", "Carolina Shout", "If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)", and "Snowy Morning Blues". He wrote music in many styles, including waltzes, ballet, symphonic pieces and light opera; sadly, many of these ambitious, long-form pieces are presumed lost.

James P. Johnson served as mentor to Fats Waller. He was also an influence on such other pianists as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Art Tatum, and even Thelonious Monk. He was a sensitive accompanist; Johnson often recorded with Bessie Smith, and was reportedly her favorite pianist.

Beginning in the 1930's, Johnson was intermitently retired due to several strokes. When he returned to active perfoming in the early 1940's, he demonstrated his adaptability by leading a small swing group and performing regularly with Eddie Condon.

Johnson permanently retired from performing after a severe stroke in 1951. He died in Jamaica, New York.

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