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Florida Artists: John Rosamond Johnson
John Rosamond Johnson, a Floridian composer, singer, and actorA native of Jacksonville, John Rosamond Johnson made his mark early on in Florida. Considered a prodigy, Johnson was an accomplished pianist by the age of four. After studying at the New England Conservatory, Johnson returned to Jacksonville and served as the musical director of the Bethel Baptist church, as well as the Baptist Academy sponsored by the church. In 1900, John Rosamond collaborated with his brother, James Weldon Johnson to create the song, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," that became known as the "Negro National Anthem." John Rosamond wrote the music and James Weldon composed the lyrics. Both brothers are members of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

The partnership of Johnson, Bob Cole of Atlanta and later his brother James Weldon, became one of the most influential song composition and musical show writing teams in New York in the early twentieth century. These men elevated the "Negro Songs" from music that promoted negative stereotypes of African Americans to sophisticated tunes that were used in Broadway musicals.

In 1912, Oscar Hammerstein appointed Rosamond Johnson musical director of his Grand Opera House in London. This made Johnson the first African American to serve in this capacity in a white theatrical (light opera) company. Later, after directing a singing orchestra and appearing in a series of groundbreaking plays given by The Coloured Players at the Garden Theater in Madison Square Garden, Johnson appeared in 1935 what would become the classical musical Porgy and Bess. Although he did not write another musical comedy, Johnson continued to compose songs, instruct young people in music and serve as a "theater doctor" for many plays until his death in 1954.


Bob Cole and John Rosamond Johnson, a great Floridian composerJohn Rosamond Johnson was born in Jacksonville Florida on August 11, 1873, two years after his older brother, James. At an early age he expressed an interest in music and began taking piano lessons at the age of four. His talent developed and J. Rosamond Johnson became a successful musician and developer of the Harlem Renaissance. Rosamond Johnson began his musical studies at the local Stanton school, where his brother also attended, and also took lessons from his mother. He and his brother both grew musically. James Weldon went to college, while Rosamond went to study classical music at the New England Conservatory in Boston.  He found an interest in musical comedy while studying classical music. Rosamond Johnson continued his studies abroad in London and developed skill as a baritone as well. Johnson began working in musicals as a vocalist and received much credit.

In 1899 the two brothers moved to New York and settled in Harlem. Here they met important people like Bob Cole and drew attention from influential leaders in the performing industry.  Rosamond's distinction was recognized when he joined with Bob Cole and several others to form a performing group called the 'Frogs'.

Rosamond Johnson was active in various musical roles during his career. He toured Vaudeville and, after Cole's 1911 death, began a successful tour with Charles Hart and Tom Brown. In London, Johnson wrote music for a theater review from 1912 to 1913.  After returning to the United States, New York's Music School Settlement for Colored, founded by the New York Symphony Orchestra's David Mannes, appointed him as director where he served from 1914 to 1919. With his own ensembles, The Harlem Rounders and The Inimitable Five, J. Rosamond Johnson toured  and performed in Negro spiritual concerts with Taylor Gordon.

The London production of Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1936 engaged Johnson as musical director. During the 1930s, Johnson also sang the role of Frazier in the original production of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, taking roles in other dramas as well. He reprised his role as Frazier on the 1951 studio recording of Porgy and Bess.

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Florida Artists
African American Pianist, Composer
 James Weldon Johnson wrote the lyrics of Lift Every Voice and Sing in collaboration with his brother Rosamond Johnson, a song now recognized as the In 1900, John Rosamond collaborated with his brother, James Weldon Johnson to create the song, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," that became known as the "Negro National Anthem." John Rosamond wrote the music and James Weldon composed the lyrics. The partnership of Johnson, Bob Cole of Atlanta and later his brother James Weldon, became one of the most influential song composition and musical show writing teams in New York in the early twentieth century.
DOB: August 11, 1873 00:00:00.000