To be Black (especially in America) is to know the Brothers Johnson. They had several No. 1 singles on the R&B charts in the ’70s and ’80s. Even though they didn’t write “Strawberry Letter 23"—that distinction goes to Shuggie Otis—their rendition is probably the one most of us are familiar with. They also gave us the perennial cookout jam, “I’ll Be Good to You,” a song that Quincy Jones redid for his Back on The Block album—turning a cookout jam into ANOTHER cookout jam; Beyoncé would achieve this feat with her recreation of Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go” in 2019—a song I probably heard a solid 2,000 times because my father played out that Quincy album, but also because he played out this song with tremendous aplomb.
Well, in a most literal album cover sense, the Brothers Johnson’s 1981 album Winners is literally them winning a race. I’m assuming it’s a 100-yard-dash because if this is my album cover, I’m not doing anything more than a 100. They look to tie because they’re brothers in real life and I can’t imagine either would be OK with the other winning. Also, they’re whipping everybody else’s ass in this race. In most sprints, the difference between 1st and 8th in a heat isn’t NEARLY as big as it is on this cover. The Brothers Johnson are basically Usain Bolt and everybody else is Kevin Hart. But if it’s my album cover, again, I’m whippin’ ass, too.
To level up the Blackness, the Norman Seef photographed, Chuck Beeson x Jeff Ayeroff designed cover has a whole-ass gold medallion on it in the likeness of the brothers. They also look happy as hell to be winning and like they just do this because they’re that good at this. They’re winners after all. What makes this so Black? Well, you have two Black men winning a track meet on an album called Winners. That does it for me. I appreciate the dedication to the Black arts, especially from a group named the Brothers Johnson.
I want one of those medals. Also, this album has some lowkey jams on it. It wasn’t one of the more successful of their albums but it’s a solid listen. You’re welcome.