1995 James P. Johnson
- Issued in the Legends of American Music Series
Stamp Category: Commemorative
Set: Legends of American Music Series
Value: 32c First-Class postage rate
First Day of Issue: September 16, 1995
First Day Cities: Monterey, California
Quantity Issued: 150,000,000
Printed by: Sterling Sommer in Tonawanda, NY for Ashton-Potter
Printing Method: Offset
Format: Pane of 20
Perforations: 11.1 x 10.9
Why the stamps were issued: They were issued as part of the new Legends of American Music Series to honor jazz and the instrumentalist and composers who made it popular. Each stamp satisfied the First-Class postage rate.
About the stamp design: The stamp was designed by Thomas Blackshear who designed four of the #2983-2992 Jazz Musicians pane. Art direction was by Howard Paine.
About The Set: The Legends of American Music Series debuted on January 8, 1993 and ran until 1999. More than 70 artists are represented from all styles of music: rock and roll, rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz and pop, opera and classical, gospel and folk. In addition to individual singers and Broadway musicals, subjects include bandleaders, classical composers, Hollywood songwriters and composers, plus conductors and lyricists.
The Legends of American Music Set was a huge advancement for diversity because it honored many Black and female artists.
The 29c “young Elvis” – #2721, kicked off the series in a big and very public way. Its design was voted on by over one million Americans, about 75% of whom favored the young Elvis over the “old Elvis” version.
History the stamp represents:
James P. Johnson, one of America’s most noted jazz artists, was born February 1, 1894, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Studying music as a child, he went on to play in local bands, and eventually toured Europe with the group Plantation Days. An innovative figure in American music, he combined elements of ragtime, blues, dance rhythms, and classical music to create the distinctive jazz piano style known as Harlem stride piano. Characterized by great rhythmic and harmonic development, often involving 10-note chords, this style creates a full, powerful sound. As the “father of stride piano,” Johnson strongly influenced such jazz greats as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Fats Waller.
Johnson’s ability to compose made him unique among his contemporaries. He wrote the scores for at least 16 musical shows during the 1920s. It was out of his 1923 Broadway production Runnin’ Wild that the tune and dance usually identified with the decade came – the Charleston. Many of his recordings have become jazz standards, including “If I Could Be With You,” “Snowy Morning Blues,” and “You Can’t Lose A Broken Heart.” Retiring to New York in the 1930s, he tackled his most ambitious goal, composing symphonic music based on African-American themes. Johnson died in 1955.