Like so many African-American vocalists, Shirley Johnsonstarted out singing in church and then went on to embrace secular music. The Chicago resident, whose influences range from Mahalia Jackson to Koko TaylorEtta James, and Ruth Brown, is a gritty, big-voiced blues singer who can also handle soul and gospel. Although Johnson has spent much of her adult life in Chicago, the Windy City is not her hometown; she was born in Franklin, VA, on June 7, 1949, and raised in Norfolk, VA. Johnson came from a very religious family and she was only six when she started singing gospel in a church choir. 

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