Louis Johnson Cause of Death: The Life and Legacy of a Legendary Bassist

Louis Johnson, also known as “Thunder Thumbs”, was one of the most influential bass players in the history of music. He was best known for his work with his brother George in the funk band the Brothers Johnson, and for his session work with Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, and many others. He died on May 21, 2015, at the age of 60. The cause of death was gastrointestinal bleeding of the esophagus, according to Wikipedia.

Early Life and Career

Louis Johnson was born in Los Angeles, California, on April 13, 1955. He was the youngest of three brothers, after Tommy and George. They all shared a guitar as children, but Louis switched to bass in 1961 after being fascinated by the guitarrón, a large acoustic bass used by mariachi bands. He learned to play by ear and developed a distinctive style of slapping and popping the strings.

In their teens, the three brothers formed a band called the Johnson Three Plus One, and played concerts at high schools and festivals, opening for bigger acts such as the Supremes. They also had to draw moustaches on their faces to get into the clubs where they were playing, since they were underage.

In 1971, George met the soul musician Billy Preston, who invited him to tour Europe with him as a guitarist. When Preston’s bassist left the band, Louis joined the group at his brother’s suggestion. For the next two years, they toured with Preston, supporting major bands such as Chicago, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Grand Funk Railroad. They also wrote more than 250 songs of their own while they were on the road with Preston.

The Brothers Johnson

In 1973, George and Louis left Preston’s band and formed their own group, the Brothers Johnson. They were soon discovered by the producer Quincy Jones, who became their manager, mentor and collaborator on several key recordings. Jones secured them a deal with the A&M label, and produced their debut album Look Out for #1 in 1976. The album was a huge success, selling more than 1 million copies and spawning two hit singles: “I’ll Be Good to You” and “Get the Funk Out Ma Face”.

The Brothers Johnson continued to release albums throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, all but one achieving platinum status. Their most enduring hit was “Stomp!”, from their fourth album Light Up the Night in 1980. The song reached No. 1 on the R&B charts and No. 7 on the pop charts. It also featured Michael Jackson on background vocals.

The Brothers Johnson were known for their flamboyance and musicianship on stage. They wore elaborate costumes and used props such as motorcycles and spaceships. They also played multiple instruments and sang in harmony. They were influenced by funk, soul, jazz, rock and disco music.

Session Work

Besides his work with his brother, Louis Johnson was also a highly sought-after session musician. He played bass on many albums by Quincy Jones, including Body Heat (1974), Mellow Madness (1975), The Dude (1981) and Back on the Block (1989). He also played on Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall (1979) and Thriller (1982), two of the best-selling albums of all time. His bass line for Jackson’s “Billie Jean” is considered one of the most iconic in pop music history.

Johnson also worked with other artists such as Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Lionel Richie, Ray Charles and many more. He was known for his versatility and ability to adapt to different styles and genres. He was also praised for his creativity and originality.

Later Years and Death

The Brothers Johnson split up in 1982 due to creative differences and personal issues. They reunited briefly in 1984 for a performance at the Los Angeles Olympics, and again in 2002 for a concert tour in Japan. They also released a compilation album called Strawberry Letter 23/The Very Best of the Brothers Johnson in 2003.

Louis Johnson continued to play bass as a solo artist and as a guest musician for other artists. He also taught bass clinics and workshops around the world. He released two solo albums: Passage (1981) and Evolution (2010).

Johnson died on May 21, 2015, at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada. The cause of death was gastrointestinal bleeding of the esophagus. He was survived by his wife Valerie Johnson and his children.


Louis Johnson is widely regarded as one of the greatest bass players of all time. He influenced generations of musicians with his innovative technique and expressive style. He was honored with several awards and recognitions throughout his career, including a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for “Stomp!” in 1981, and a Bass Player Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.

Johnson’s music lives on in the songs he recorded with the Brothers Johnson and other artists, as well as in the samples and covers that have been used by hip-hop, R&B, pop and dance music artists. He is also remembered for his charisma, generosity and passion for music.

Louis Johnson cause of death was a tragic loss for the music world, but his legacy lives on in the hearts and ears of his fans and fellow musicians. He was a true legend of the bass.

Doms Desk

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