Syl Johnson: Any Way the Wind Blows is now available on multiple video-on-demand platforms for the first time — including Amazon, Apple, Google Play, Vudu or Vimeo On Demand, where it was made available in February after Johnson died. Johnson died on Feb. 6 at the age of 85.
Originally released in 2015, the documentary traces the life and career influential, but longtime overlooked soul singer, from his Mississippi roots to his move to Chicago in the Sixties. After moving to the Windy City, Johnson eventually signed with Twinight Records, releasing hits including “Come On Sock it to Me,” “Different Strokes” and “Is It Because I’m Black.” He also recorded with the same band and producer as Al Green at Hi Records in Memphis in the Seventies — yet stardom seemed to elude Johnson, despite being one of the most sampled artists in hip-hop history.
“I think he’s one of the unsung heroes of soul music, and also one of the unsung heroes of hip-hop music,” Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA says in the film. “A lot of people may not know the name of this man, Syl Johnson, but they know his music.”
The Rob Hatch-Miller-directed film includes images and footage from Johnson’s musical beginnings to his late career resurgence. Featuring an original score by Yo La Tengo, the documentary also includes an appearance by Snoop Dogg and interviews with RZA, Prince Paul (De La Soul), Peanut Butter Wolf (Stones Throw Records), Jazzy Jay (Afrika Bambaataa’s Soulsonic Force), Jonathan Lethem (writer), Louis “Breakbeat Lou” Flores (Ultimate Breaks & Beats), Otis Clay (Hi Records artist), and Gabriel Roth (Daptone Records, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings).