Monday, July 16, 2007

Rockobit: Kelly Johnson

Kelly Johnson, guitarist with rock legends Girlschool, has died at the age of 49.

Enfield-born Johnson joined the band as they morphed from Painted Lady into Girlschool, turning what had been a bit of fun into a serious proposition. Taken under the wing of Motorhead following the release of 1979 debut single Take It All Way. The patronage of Lemmy and the boys saw them develop a formidable live reputation, and, in the split 1980 EP The St Valentine's Day Masacre, a significant, if specialist, market for their records.

Johnson quit in 1983, as the band embarked on something of a lean period, becoming one of those acts seemingly on permanent tour, trading more off past glories than current inspiration, and even trying out new names and some stunt casting (She Devils, with Toyah on lead vocals and Strange Girls). But it was Johnson's return in 1993 that gave the band a new life. While never recapturing quiet the peak of their early 80s heyday, they moved beyond filling a role as their own tribute band.

Kelly had spent the time between her stints in Girlschool living in LA - she spent a couple of years in a band with former Go-Go Kathy Valentine. Her taste wasn't restricted to heavy rock - she cited Elastica as a favourite band, for example - but it's the genre she'll always be associated most strongly with.

Johnson's time with Girlschool came to an end in 2000 when she quit the music industry altogether; shortly afterwards, she was diagnosed with cancer of the spine. The last six years, she had fought the disease; sadly, she lost her battle sometime yesterday.


Anonymous said...

Kelly Johnson
Classic rock guitarist, never given the respect she deserved.
Thanks for all those great gigs!

BertrandCherbourg said...

I am an "old" french fan of Girlschool of 41 year old... I felt in love with Kelly when I was 14!!!!

My music period when I was young man was the "NWOBHM", Judas Priest, Saxon, Iron Maiden, Motörhead and of course, Girlschool!

It's very strange and hard for me because I don't knew that Kelly was ill... The presse doesn't speak a lot about metal music...

R.I.P. dear girl... always in our minds!

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