Veteran Jamaican producer Harry Johnson, better known as just Harry J, died on April 3 due to complications battling diabetes, according to Jamaica Observer. He was 68 years old.
Some of my earliest memories listening to reggae are his recordings and one of the first various artists compilations I bought was The Return of the Liquidator. It collects some of his finest and most groundbreaking productions, including Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths’ Nina Simone cover Young, Gifted and Black and the organ lead instrumental masterpiece The Liquidator released in 1969.
The latter tune was three years later used for The Staple Singers’ soul hit I’ll Take You There. The reggae vocal and sax version by Tony Scott and Val Bennett respectively are just as great as the organ cut.
Two tunes not included though were The Beltones’ No More Heartaches, by some referred to as one of the earliest reggae songs, and Lloyd Robinson’s haunting Cuss Cuss. Both were produced by Harry J.
Later this former insurance salesman established his own studio Harry J where loads of reggae nuggets were recorded, including tracks by Bob Marley, Burning Spear and Dennis Brown.