UK Friends and musicians pay tribute to Denise Johnson last minute news
MetiNews.Com - Denise Johnson elevated the music of many of Manchester's best known bands - and was an icon herself.
Breaking News ! Hers was a voice that raised up some of the best known faces in music. Denise Johnson - who passed away suddenly this week aged 56 - sang alongside Johnny Marr, New Order and Primal Scream. She was the woman they turned to when they needed to bring depth to their sound. As her friend John Locke says: “The angels had better be on form because they’ve got some serious competition now.” Denise Johnson (Image: @dannybirdphoto) Born in Hulme and raised in Chorlton, Denise became fascinated with music from an early age, citing The Sound of Music soundtrack as the record that first inspired her to sing. An avid Manchester City fan, Denise’s early years were soundtracked by the likes of Whitesnake, and her Jamaican mother's collection of ska. It was a fashion show at The Ritz, in Manchester, that led her to a career in music. She spotted a band auditioning singers and, having never sung live before, blagged her way to an audition which she described as ‘abysmal’, but still got the job. Johnny Marr paid tribute to Denise (Image: Johnny Marr) Various tours of big clubs followed with Denise singing along to cassettes and doing covers - experiences that taught her about working with a microphone and being on stage. Not long after she joined A Fifth of Heaven and the band had a major hit with Just A Little More in 1989 and went on to support US band Maze at Wembley Arena. Primal Scream enlisted her to sing on what would become their groundbreaking album Screamadelica. After this Denise released her first single ‘Raise of the Rising Son’, which hit the Top 40. Read More Related Articles These are the Covid numbers that put Greater Manchester back in partial lockdown Read More Related Articles 'Overstretched' police to increase presence across our region this weekend to tackle illegal gatherings A flurry of recordings with Bernard Butler, The Waterboys, New Order, Gay Dad, Michael Hutchence and Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner’s project Electronic followed. In a tribute on Twitter, The Smiths guitarist said simply: “Playing alongside her was something else. It was a privilege to work with her.” But it was with A Certain Ratio that Denise spent much of her time appearing on five albums and forming an integral part of their live line-up since 1990. ACR guitarist Martin Moscrop said: “I won't know what to do without her stood next to me on stage as she always made me feel at ease. Denise with A Certain Ratio (Image: Pete Smith) “Her beautiful voice will be with us forever and she will be making people’s hairs on the back of their neck stand up for the rest of our lifetime.” Her friend and bassist Jez Kerr said: “The depth of love and sorrow for Denise is a reflection of the beautiful person that she was. “Her smile was infectious and when she sang it was always from the heart, and from the soul.” Stone Roses and Primal Scream bassist Mani says he was shocked and saddened to hear about “the passing of such a beautiful soul as Denise”. Denise sang with A Certain Ration for decades (Image: Pete Smith) “I feel privileged to have counted myself as a friend, and I will miss her banter, devilish humour and repartee,” he said. “We never got to work together as I was a very latecomer to the Primal Scream party, but us two Mancunians in one space would have led to one thing....TROUBLE! “You will be sadly missed by us all here in Manchester, and your musical legacy will shine on.... rest easy sister.... we’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when.” Ian Brown describes Denise as one of Manchester’s best soul singers. “Working with Denise was a joy not only because she would nail her part in one take she’d make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck just while warming up and checking the microphone,” he said. “As well as being a great and in demand singer Denise was a lovely woman strong independent and community minded. All of us will miss her and her skills greatly.” New Order drummer Stephen Morris says Denise brought so much to their sound. Denise Johnson (Image: Sue Langford) “Every song she made better, it was incredible really,” he said. “It wasn’t just backing vocals - everything she did added so much to the song. “She was so lively and full of life, really bubbly. I remember her smiling and giving you a hug. She would always have a drink for you. “She had just finished her album and she’d got a great cover of True Faith on there. It deserves to do well because she was very talented. “Hers was a soulful voice. She could do very delicate stuff. She could do anything really. That’s why she was constantly in demand.” Read More Related Articles 'Confusing and devastating': How you are responding to the tightening of lockdown restrictions across Greater Manchester Read More Related Articles House parties and raves 'have undoubtedly played part in rise of younger people with Covid-19 in Greater Manchester' More recently Denise performed acoustic sets with guitarist Twem and the pair gave life to great songs by artists such as Cherry Ghost, 10CC and New Order during sets at Kendal Calling, Festival No6 and Bluedot. Twem recently worked with Denise on her debut album Where Does It Go - a record she was incredibly proud of. “All tracks were recorded in one take, both acoustic and vocals without any editing or vocal correction, they’re not perfect takes, but as she has taught us, neither is life,” he says. “So for those four minutes, you have Denise singing her heart out in the room. Denise Johnson with Mark Hadfield (centre) “She wanted to get something out there that was all her. It’s really nice we have that of her.” He described her as the “kindest, most passionate person” and added: “The gigs we played together have been some of the most proudest moments of my life.” Denise herself cited a gig at Kendal Calling with Twem as one of her favourite experiences. “The love and the support from the crowd was just overwhelming,” she told Manchester Digital Music Archive during a 2018 interview. To those who knew her best, Denise was a loyal and fierce friend. Her best mate Sue Langford met Denise when she was working as general manager at The Boardwalk and as a tour manager for bands including A Certain Ratio. Denise Johnson and her best friend Sue Langford (Image: Sue Langford) “Because Denise and I were the two girls on the tour, we'd share a hotel room. We just clicked,” she said. “I was always amazed at how genuinely brilliant she was with literally everyone - her capacity for remembering people and their names put me to shame. At one gig, she greeted someone, and said to me ‘Sue, you remember so and so, you met him at that New Order gig in Preston’. “She was always very careful to thank everyone involved in a project, whether that meant chatting with the stage-crew and staff at a venue or studio, or ensuring that everyone knew who had taken a photograph she shared online. Read More Related Articles Family CANNOT go in each other's houses to provide childcare... but you can still employ a nanny Read More Related Articles We need clarity on outdoor meeting and pub beer garden rules, mayor says - as he slams government for causing 'confusion and distress' “She was the warmest human being: her hugs were legendary. She was kind and loyal (often fiercely so) with high standards, and was always keen to even out any wrongs. “Anyone that's followed her Twitter feed will see that she championed many causes. Her online activity also showcased her brilliant wit - recording short film-clips in truly awful accents of wherever she was busy ‘minding the van’ before a gig, or her brilliant references to being on the subs bench for her beloved Man City; always in ‘full kit’. “Denise was a great person to share a problem with, making you feel better or stronger, but she was also a great person to share joy with: her laugh was raucous and infectious, her smile incredible. She was beautiful on the outside too.” Denise Johnson and Oli Wilson (Image: Oli Wilson) Music artist manager Conrad Murray recalls a night when his younger brother got chatting to Denise at a party. “He said she was so warm and welcoming that he ended up talking with her all evening. Just hanging out,” he said. “She was a real star and she managed to lift his evening and he was no longer lonely at the do. "That was a huge part of Denise to me; making a bee-line for my wife at an event where Becky might not know anyone else. Embracing her and them both chatting away all night. “Denise was a true Mancunian star and her uplifting spirit was as powerful as her wonderful voice.” John Locke, the former owner of The Northern, describes spending Saturday nights at the pub with Denise. “I would DJ but she would never turn up before 12.01am smelling like Dolce & Gabbana perfume looking great. She would hug me and would just dance all night. Denise Johnson with her friend John Locke (Image: John Locke) “She supported me in everything I did.
.” He added: “Denise had the voice of an angel, a smile like sunshine and eyes which sparkled like stars. She had a very rare and precious thing - a pure heart.” Manchester illustrator Stan Chow had created a portrait of Denise following her sudden death this week. He said: “She was the kind of person who always made you feel like you were her best mate,” he said. “Her personality radiated, you could never not enjoy being in her company.”
Stan Chow has created a portrait of Denise Johnson
(Image: Stan Chow)
Puressence singer James Mudriczki and his partner Michelle have many fond memories of Denise. They said: “We will treasure all the laughs, still can’t believe this is real. Such a beautiful person. One of the best. “Your talent was immense and your presence will be greatly missed. Always. We love you D, Shell and Jimmy x” Artist Baba Youngblood says Denise was the first person to believe in their artistic endeavours and in a statement said: “I'm so grateful for having known you, Lady D. I can't believe that I'll never see your beautiful face again.
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“You gave out and you never gave up, and you were loved more than you'll ever know.” Friend Jay Taylor says he has struggled to think of a more “remarkably kind, smart, sparkling and generous” person than Denise. “Not once across the years did I find Denise in anything other than scintillating form and she was one of those rare people who are only ever mentioned with admiration and love,” he said. “And my Lord, that voice. That voice. My heart goes out to her family and countless friends.” One of her closest friends, Michelle Hussey said: “When I think of Denise I smile because her smile was actually infectious, because she made me laugh so much, because she really explored the world and all its brilliance and madness with me in conversations. “I knew her gorgeous voice before I knew her even more gorgeous heart and I will always feel so blessed that our minds met and we had that connection. I’m going to miss her so much and I wish we lived in a world where grace, and outstanding talent were always recognised as the norm - she embodies that for me.”
Denise Johnson with her close friend Natalie Eve Williams
(Image: Natalie Eve Williams)
Close friend and broadcaster Natalie-Eve Williams, of BBC Introducing Manchester, recalls first speaking to Denise over the phone to invite her onto her radio show. “That call lasted over 3 hours and the rest is history,” she says. “She gave the best hugs, the best advice and was the best friend you could ever wish to have in your corner. She was the worst time keeper though, always late - ask anyone. “My children adored 'Auntie D' in fact my whole family did as they got to know her over the last 15 years at various family parties and occasions. She always had the stash over proof Wray and Nephew rum in her bag for poor unsuspecting victims. “She always asked how people were doing and really meant it. She was infectiously beautiful, always smelt divine and looked immaculate.
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“Denise enchanted everyone she met and more importantly, she was so kind, but extremely mischievous. She had cast iron morals and integrity, which she wouldn't compromise for any amount of money or publicity, that is a rarity in this industry. “It feels conflicting writing about her now, as she never got the recognition she deserved. Through her incredible career, she never had sufficient coverage in the press or the appreciation and value that was earned, but D just cracked on with grace and the humility that she was blessed with. “The best thing to happen in recent years was Denise reluctantly joining Twitter - after years of trying to convince her. She engaged with everyone and the world got to witness her as a person, not just that unmistakable voice. Her sense of humour, passion for justice, re-found love of TOTP and manic loss of composure whilst watching our beloved Man City in 'full kit' - she was the same when you went to a match with her. “The genuine outpouring of love and affection for her and people’s own stories of their connection with D, have been so comforting to read, but not at all surprising.
Denise Johnson with Natalie Eve Williams
(Image: Denise Johnson and Natalie Eve Williams)
“She will always be my 'Lioness' and the hole she has left in my heart can never be filled.” Rose Marley, who organised the mass singalong Together In One Voice during lockdown, said Denise was “Manchester music royalty”. “When she eventually said yes to appearing in Manchester Together in One Voice recently I was over the moon. To gain her support and endorsement made it really special because you knew if she said yes, it was going to be good, because she said no to most things. “Everything she did was with dignity, integrity and authenticity. She was also a true and beautiful friend. “Manchester has lost a really special soul this week and she will leave a hole in the lives of many.” Tim Booth, from James, met Denise while working on the Manchester Passion - a televised retelling of the Passion of Jesus Christ broadcast live from Manchester. “She was a warm, loving, welcoming presence, which was wonderful, as none of us had a clue if the show would work and were suitably terrified,” he said. “When she sang, you believed she was Mary, the archetypal Mother Goddess. My love goes out to her family and loved ones.”
A portrait of Denise by Baba Youngblood
(Image: Baba Youngblood)
DJ and Inspiral Carpets keyboardist Clint Boon added: “She had the most infectious personality and being in her company was always totally heartwarming. She had one of the nicest smiles I’ve ever seen and we would always greet each other with the biggest of hugs. “And that voice. What a gift. “Her untimely passing has cast a dark shadow over the Manchester music family. We’ll miss you Denise. Stay Forever Beautiful.” Oli Wilson, son of the late Tony Wilson added: “Denise was an eternal flame in our music city - one that I never could never have imagined going out. “Denise was that warm feeling I get when I think of Manchester, the place feels a little colder now without her in it.” Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy, first met Denise around 1988 when he was a tea boy at Square One studios in Bury.
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“Our paths have crossed frequently over the past 20 years, either at gigs, nights out or down the supermarket,” he says. “She was always very modest and ‘real’ and I don’t think she knew how naturally beautiful she was, with that amazing smile. “Her talent spoke for itself, every time she stepped up to a microphone something great happened. “I think losing her is painful to so many of us because she was really full of life and only just beginning her solo career and she just epitomised what it is to be a great human being and we need those more than ever right now. “Godbless you Denise and thank you for always being so lovely.” Her friend Mark Hadfield described her as a “top girl. Strong, funny, witty, charming and very cheeky.” “She had the biggest heart, nothing was too much trouble.
“I remember bumping into Denise on a train in the 90's coming home from London. She had been clothes shopping for the day. I thought to myself ‘now there's a real star’. “When Denise opened her mouth, beautiful sounds came out. Every note sung in perfect pitch. “She shot from the hip, spoke from the heart and sung from the soul.” Songwriter Simon Aldred says he was in awe of Denise when he met her 20 years ago. "She was a magical presence and as great a singer she was, it wasn’t even the most remarkable thing about her," he said. "Her generosity, her warmth and her authenticity were unparalleled. We spoke frequently and she covered one of my songs on her soon to be released solo album, the last line of which is ‘you are what you give’. The way she sang that line you could tell she lived by that maxim. She gave so much. "The world is a much sadder place without her in it. I will miss her terribly." A Go Fund Me campaign started this week to raise money for Denise’s funeral has so far raised more than £28,000. You can donate here.