After its first year at WMBR, Lecco’s Lemma moved to Boston College’s WZBC (90.3 FM) where it continued until 1988. By this time, the urban edge that had originally inspired Johnstone had given way to slicker suburban production, and Johnstone was already planning his new Arabic and North African music show, Mecca. Just as the golden age of hip-hop made rap mainstream, Johnstone was already on to the next thing.
Johnstone was diagnosed with leukemia in 1990 and in 1994 received a bone marrow transplant that saved his life. But he continued to paint and produce college radio shows, and in the late 1990s he hosted Dub Hop on WZBC, featuring rap dub sides, spoken word, and sometimes undergraduates and friends reading prose and poetry live over the air — a recipe that remained one of his staples for years to come.
In 2001, Johnstone moved to Bucksport, Maine seeking larger space for painting and a slower lifestyle. He continued to paint, and produced the 21-volume Manga series of artbooks containing his black-and-white drawings — the last of which he completed just before his death. As always, he continued to discover music and share it over the local airwaves. Johnstone became a weekly presence on WERU, a community station in Orland, ME, where he hosted Da Vibez, an urban music show, and The Matrix, which some people close to him have called his masterwork. During his time in Maine, Johnstone worked at the Liros art gallery in Blue Hill. The gallery is planning a retrospective of his work in June 2013. In the meantime, his website, magnusjohnstone.com, includes many examples of his recent work.
Johnstone died of cancer in Maine on the afternoon of February 22, 2013. He is survived by his mother, Jessie Petcoff, sisters Margaret and Sidney Johnstone, brothers Andrew and Stuart Johnstone, stepbrothers James and George Petcoff, and his wife and fellow artist, Mango Johnstone. Cards, letters and condolences can be sent to Mango Johnstone, 905 River Road, Bucksport, ME 04416.