Childhood & Early Life
Johnny Gill Jr. was born on May 22, 1966, at Washington DC, US. He is the youngest of the four sons of Baptist minister Johnny Gill Sr. and his wife, Annie Mae Gill. As a professional singer, Gill Sr. often traveled with quartet groups. Gill, along with his brothers, Bobby, Jeff, and Randy, sang for their family gospel group, ‘Wings of Faith.’ Gill started singing at the tender age of 5, and even as a child, he was gifted with a mature voice and was the lead singer of the group.
He studied at several schools, such as ‘Kimball Elementary,’ ‘Sousa Junior High,’ and the ‘Duke Ellington School of Arts.’ He completed his high-school education by studying at home with a tutor. Although he had initially wished to study electrical engineering, he later decided to concentrate only on music.
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In 1982, singer Stacy Lattisaw, who was his childhood friend and who had heard Gill perform in his family group, persuaded him to record a demo. The president of ‘Atlantic Records’ heard the demo and liked it. Thus, Gill recorded his first album at the age of 16. The debut album, titled ‘Johnny Gill,’ was released by ‘Cotillion Records,’ a subsidiary of ‘Atlantic Records.’ His first single, ‘Super Love,’ made its place among the top 30 singles on the ‘R&B Hit’ chart.
His next project was a duet album with Stacy Lattisaw, titled ‘Perfect Combination.’ It graced the ‘Billboard 200’ and brought him national attention and fame. He recorded his second solo album, ‘Chemistry,’ in 1985, but it failed to achieve much commercial success.
Gill’s music career received a boost when, in 1987, he joined ‘New Edition’ as their lead singer. The group was a popular boy band of the 1980s, with all of its members, except Gill, being from Boston. Michael Bivins was responsible for making Gill join the band. Gill was an apt replacement of Bobby Brown. He was known as a singer with traditional training and was acknowledged for his smooth rendering of love ballads.
The group released their album ‘Heart Break’ in 1987, and a single from the album, ‘Can You Stand The Rain,’ reached the number one spot on the R&B charts. Other songs of the album, such as ‘N.E. Heart Break,’ ‘Boys To Men,’ and ‘If It Isn’t Love,’ were also appreciated.
Gill released his next few albums as a solo artist with ‘Motown Records.’ His next album, ‘Johnny Gill,’ released in 1990 and contained a number of hit songs such as ‘My My My,’ ‘Fairweather Friend,’ and ‘Wrap My Body Tight.’ One of the singles from the album, ‘Rub You The Right Way,’ reached the third spot on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart. The song ‘My My My’ aced the ‘US R&B chart’ and was among the Top 10 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart. The album reached the top spot on the ‘US Billboard Top R&B Albums’ chart and was among the Top 10 on the ‘US Billboard 200’ chart. The album is still considered to be his best as a solo artist.
His next solo album, ‘Provocative,’ was released in 1993. He then released ‘Let’s Get the Mood Right’ in 1996. The songs ‘Quiet Time to Play,’ ‘I Know Where I Stand’ (A gospel song), and ‘Love in an Elevator’ were significant hits. Both these albums earned the “gold” certification from the ‘Recording Industry Association of America’ (RIAA). The track ‘Maybe’ from the album ‘Let’s Get the Mood Right’ is regarded as the finest performance of his career.
He reunited with the band ‘New Edition,’ and together, they released an album, ‘Home Again,’ in 1996. Along with Gerald Levert and Keith Sweat, Gill formed the supergroup ‘LSG’ (Levert/Sweat/Gill). Their debut album, ‘Levert.Sweat.Gill,’ was a hit and achieved the “double-platinum” status. Their last album, ‘LSG2,’ released in 2003, was also a hit.
Gill went back to ‘New Edition’ in 2004, and they recorded the album ‘One Love’ with ‘Bad Boy Records.’ He released another solo album, ‘Still Winning,’ in 2011, almost 16 years after his last solo album was released. The album included songs such as ‘Just the Way You Are,’ ‘In the Mood,’ ‘2nd Place,’ and ‘It Would Be You.’
In 2008, he formed a group with his previous ‘New Edition’ bandmates Bobby Brown and Ralph Tresvant. The group was named ‘Heads of State’ and was known as ‘BGT.’ By the end of 2008, the trio embarked on a ‘Summit Tour.’
He started his own label, ‘J Skillz Records,’ in 2014 and released his next album, ‘Game Changer,’ under his own label. A few songs from the album, such as ‘Behind Closed Door’ and ‘Game Changer,’ went on to become R&B radio hits.
Gill appeared as a singer and an actor on a number of TV shows and in a few movies, too. In the film ‘Madea’s Family Reunion’ (2006), he rendered the song ‘You For Me.’ He appeared in a cameo role on the TV show ‘Family Matters.’
In the TV series ‘The Arsenio Hall Show,’ which ran from 1989 to 1994, and again from 2013 to 2014, Gill appeared as a guest in a number of episodes. He also performed in various episodes of the TV series ‘Soul Train,’ from 1988 to 2004.
Gill starred in two stage plays, ‘A Mother’s Prayer’ (2009) and ‘Momma’s Boy’ (2017). He also appeared in the inspirational drama ‘Will A Real Man Please Stand Up?’