Guitarist Jef Lee Johnson Dies at 54
Guitarist Jef Lee Johnson died on Jan. 28 at Roxborough Memorial Hospital in Philadelphia from complications of pneumonia and diabetes. He was 54.
During a prolific career that began when he was a teenager, the Philadelphia native worked with a diverse array of artists from many genres, including Erykah Badu, Stanley Clarke, the Rev. James Cleveland, Common, D’Angelo, George Duke, Aretha Franklin, Nicole Henry, Phyllis Hyman, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Teddy Pendergrass, The Roots, Paul Shaffer, Esperanza Spalding and McCoy Tyner.
Johnson’s solo debut as a leader was 1995’s Blue. Other titles in his discography include Communion, The Singularity, Hype Factory and Thisness. The guitarist collaborated with producer Aaron Levinson on the 2008 tribute album Rediscovering Lonnie Johnson.
On Jan. 29, drummer/producer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots posted a Twitter message that read, in part: “Jef Lee Johnson, you will be missed. You were such a magical musician & gentle human being.”
To make a donation to the Jef Lee Johnson Scholarship Fund, contact the Development Office of the Settlement Music School, Mary Louise Curtis Branch, in Philadelphia.
Samples of Johnson’s music are posted at the artist’s MySpace website.