Known as one of Canada’s greatest voices, award-winning jazz vocalist Molly Johnson is a mother, singer-songwriter, artist and philanthropist who has grown to become a Canadian icon in the jazz scene worldwide. Molly’s luscious interpretations of jazz and blues standards speak to an emotional depth that few vocalists in any genre have ever reached.
Molly’s story starts in the mid-sixties when as a young grade schooler, she and her brother, Clark Johnson, were tapped by legendary Toronto icon and producer Ed Mirvish to appear in Porgy and Bess at the Royal Alexander Theatre. In time, Porgy and Bess was followed by South Pacific, Finian’s Rainbow and other classic musicals. With the desire to become a choreographer, the budding child star was soon enrolled in the National Ballet School. Eventually Molly was taken with the idea of writing songs and the future chanteuse began to see herself as a potential songwriter.
At 15 years old, Molly fronted a disco band, Chocolate Affair, lasting just over a year. In 1979, she formed a funky art rock group, Alta Moda (Italian for “High Style”), which later morphed into the harder rocking Infidels. While Molly was trying to make headway in the world of rock and roll with both Alta Moda and Infidels, she began a parallel career as a jazz singer.
By the late 1990s, Molly had started her family and, being burned twice by record companies, was contemplating giving up on the music business – until Toronto songwriter and producer Steven Mackinnon suggested she should write some songs for him. The partnership proved successful after a dozen or so songs when MacKinnon declared, “I think we have a record.” The debut jazz album Molly Johnson (2000) was issued to critical acclaim but unfortunately, Molly’s record company, Sony Corp., went bankrupt shortly after the CD’s release. Three years later, she recorded her second jazz-pop release, Another Day (2003), which led her to become a bonafide star in France.
Molly’s next album, Messin’ Around (2006), was her first album recorded with Universal Music Canada. Recorded “live” off the floor alongside her band mates in 14 days, the result was an extraordinary and sophisticated pop record that infused Molly’s well-honed melodic skills, artful Tin Pan Alley style lyrics, jazz phrasing and overall pop sensibility.
Since then, Molly has released two more albums, which includes Lucky (2008) and The Molly Johnson Songbook (2011). In 2009, Molly won a Juno Award for Best Vocal Jazz Album for her fourth full-length, career milestone album Lucky and also received the2009 National Jazz Award for Best Female Vocalist.
Molly has performed throughout Canada, the United States, and France and alongside renowned artists including Tom Cochrane, Celine Dion, Blue Rodeo, Tom Jones, Craig Ross, Lenny Kravitz, Jackie Richardson, Anne Murray, Stéphane Grappelli, Peter Appleyard and more. Molly has also graced the stage performing for some of the world’s most prominent icons including the Prince and late Princess of Wales on the Royal Yacht Britannia, as well as Nelson Mandela and legendary producer and trumpeter Quincy Jones. Molly is also the sister of Clark Johnson and Tabitha Johnson.
Dedicated to supporting communities in need, Molly established the Kumbaya Foundation and Festival in 1992, raising awareness and funds for people living with HIV/AIDS, and continues to work with several other charitable organizations each year. Molly has been awarded the Queen’s Jubilee medal, and in 2008, was honoured with becoming an Officer of The Order Of Canada (O.C.). This rare distinction was given to Molly to recognize her philanthropic work for a variety of causes and for her international contributions to the arts.
Molly was the voice of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio 2 Weekend Morning program where she eased listeners into their weekend with great Canadian songs, and stories about musicians and the people of Canada, from coast to coast. The Canadian music icon is also hitting up the studios to record her sixth album, which is set to release spring 2014.