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Obituary: Primal Scream singer Denise Johnson

George Clinton, Denise Johnson and Primal Scream performing at NBC TV Studios, July 1996.
George Clinton, Denise Johnson and Primal Scream performing at NBC TV Studios, July 1996.

Denise Johnson was well-known and well-respected by many throughout the UK music industry.

The Manchester-born singer was best known for her work on Primal Scream’s critically-acclaimed 1991 album Screamadelica, and performed with the Glasgow band for five years.

She also featured on records from some of her home town’s biggest bands, including New Order.

Her family said she “died suddenly” aged 56, and had been ill in the week prior.

Music played a prominent role in Johnson’s life, growing up in the Manchester suburb of Hulme regularly listening to reggae and ska.

She began singing professionally in a covers band in her early 20s, then joined soul group Fifth of Heaven several years later.

Johnson was introduced to Primal Scream after performing with popular duo Hypnotone, but turned down the opportunity to tour with the band six times before finally accepting.

She would later recall the period as “five or so truly magical, hair-tearing-out, raucous years.”

A statement on Primal Scream’s Twitter page said: “We were sad to hear about the passing of Denise Johnson. Our condolences to her family and friends.

“Denise’s vital contributions to our Screamadelica and Give Out But Don’t Give Up albums and tours are a testament to her talent.”

She sang alongside Manchester band A Certain Ratio for more than 25 years.

The band asked fans to “spend some time listening to her wonderful voice, remembering her loving nature and infectious sense of humour”.

Former Smiths guitarist Marr said it had been a “privilege” to work with the artist.

He tweeted: “Such sad news about our dear friend Denise Johnson. Playing alongside her was something else.”

Rowetta, a singer known for her work with The Happy Mondays, said Johnson’s death was “sad, sad news”.

She wrote online: “I have so many great memories of Denise from when we were young.

“We just used to sing and laugh like naughty schoolgirls all the time.

“A great loss to Manchester and music. My condolences to her family and loved ones.”

Bernard Butler, best known for his work with Suede, asked Johnson to perform on his album.

“I am saddened to hear of Denise Johnson’s passing,” he said.

“I invited her to sing on my album because I heard her voice when I wrote the songs.

“I didn’t ask for a backing singer; I asked for Denise Johnson.

“She was beautiful and alive and I am grateful my music was touched by her beauty.”

New Order’s official Twitter account said the band was “devastated” by Johnson’s death.

It added: “She was a beautiful person with a huge talent. Her voice graced many of our albums and live shows and that of our friends. We will miss her dearly.”

Johnson’s debut solo acoustic album, Where Does It All Go, is to be released in September.

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