Composer and guitarist Scott Johnson passes away at 70

March 28, 2023

Music fans were recently saddened to learn that composer and guitarist Scott Johnson had passed away at the age of 70. 

According to The New York Times, Johnson died in Manhattan last Friday. The paper quoted his sister, Susan Lee Johnson, as saying that his death was due to aspiration pneumonia.

Johnson's wife died alongside her husband

The Times noted that Johnson's wife, 70-year-old classical-music publicist Marlisa Monroe appears to have died on the same day as her husband, with police finding her "unconscious and unresponsive" in their home. Monroe's cause of death has yet to be determined.

Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, the Times explained that Johnson "played clarinet before switching to electric guitar in high school."

He then went on to fuse classical music with more modern styles by "bringing elements of rock into the concert-music world."

Fellow musician Peter Gordon recalled how Johnson initially supported himself by demolishing and renovating lofts.

An award-winning career

The hard physical labor took a toll on Johnson's hands, with Gordon telling the Times, "It sometimes took Scott days to be able to use his fingers for guitar, after sanding floors all day."

Johnson's work gained recognition, and he received a Guggenheim fellowship in 2006 as well as an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in 2015.

Tributes to Johnson quickly appeared on social media, including from journalist Steve Smith, who tweeted, "Writing obituaries is a challenge and an honor, and this one meant a lot to me."

Artist remembered for being "an inventive composer"

Joshua Kosman is a classical music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, and he spoke of being "heartbroken" by Johnson's death.

Meanwhile, former New York Times music critic Allan Kozinn hailed Johnson for being "an inventive composer who brilliantly pushed against the classical/rock divide."

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