A singer behind eight solo and duet Top Ten R&B hits, as well as a member of New Edition since 1987, Johnny Gill was born in Washington, D.C., and began singing at a young age, beside his brothers in the gospel group Wings of Faith. His solo career began in 1983, when he signed to the Atlantic-affiliated Cotillion label and scored a number 29 R&B hit with his first single, the Freddie Perren-produced “Super Love.” Even then, Gill had a mature and muscular voice — one that sounded more like that of a grown man than a high schooler. Alongside childhood friend and fellow Cotillion artist Stacy Lattisaw, he scored an R&B Top Ten hit with “Perfect Combination,” the title track to the vocalists’ 1984 album of duets. A second solo set, 1985’s Chemistry, failed to gain much traction.
Gill’s career was given new life when he was asked to joined New Edition — as the replacement for Bobby Brown — for the recording of 1988’s Heart Break. In 1989, he was featured on two additional R&B hits: “Where Do We Go from Here,” a number one hit from Lattisaw’s What You Need, and “One Love,” by saxophonist George Howard. Another self-titled solo album was released the following year and sold a million copies on the strength of four major hit singles; “Rub You the Right Way,” “My My My,” and Wrap My Body Tight” topped the R&B chart, while “Fairweather Friend” merely made it to number two. While that would represent the singer’s commercial peak as a solo artist, 1993’s Provocative and 1996’s Let’s Get the Mood Right both went gold. He teamed with Keith Sweat and Gerald LeVert to form LSG, a group that issued albums in 1997 and 2003 and peaked with the debut’s “My Body,” another number-one R&B single. Gill remained with New Edition, who released One Love in 2004. He would not release another solo album until 2011’s Still Winning. ~ Andy Kellman & William Ruhlmann, Rovi