Tag Archives: Dead reggae artists

Ranking Dread’s rub-a-dub fiesta

RANKING DREADBadman deejay Ranking Dread’s debut album Girls Fiesta was reissued yesterday by Cherry Red’s subsidiary Hot Milk. It’s partly the deejay counterpart to Linval Thompson’s Love is the Question album released the same year, i.e. 1978.

Ranking Dread is a mythological character in the reggae industry and his story is a real wild one. He was probably born in 1955 and in his late teens he was involved in political activism for Jamaican Labour Party (JLP). He was soon involved in several incidents with the law and escaped from Kingston to London where he started a musical career.

This lead to the voicing of Girls Fiesta and three other albums followed – Kunta Kinte Roots, Lots of Loving and Ranking Dread in Dub. He also dropped a number of strong singles, the monotonous and suggestive Fattie Boom Boom – a version of Cornel Campbell’s Rope In – being the most successful.

Girls Fiesta collects ten tracks and is packed with tough and stripped down riddims executed by Sly & Robbie and others. The dubwise mixing by Sid Bucknor puts the emphasis on the drums and the bass and Ranking Dread rides the riddims with ease.

Unfortunately a life of crime seemed more lucrative for Ranking Dread and his musical output evaporated in the early 80s. He is rumoured to have run a criminal empire in the 80s and he lived in the U.S. and Canada for a while. He probably died in a Jamaican prison in 1996, but this is not confirmed.

Ranking Dread lived the life of a bonafide gangster and has been charged with murder, possession of illegal firearms, armed robbery and possession of drugs. A shame. Because he was a real talent in the studio and his relaxed, yet lively, style of deejaying has made him a musical giant.

The CD contains excellent liner notes by David Katz telling the story of Ranking Dread’s short musical career and criminal lifestyle.

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Too many gone too soon

I started writing about reggae music about three years ago. Over these years a number of producers and artists have unfortunately passed away. Some died of natural causes, while other became victims of the seemingly endless violence in Jamaica.

The latest victim is the youthful voice of Matthew McAnuff, son of Winston and brother of Kush of Uprising Roots Band fame. He was murdered in Jamaica on Wednesday August 22 only 27 years old.

The list of murdered people in the music business in Jamaica is long. Too long.

Last year Joel Chin, A&R at VP Records, was murdered and the year before Oneil Edwards from Voicemail was gunned down outside his home.

You also have Pan Head, Peter Tosh, Dirtsman, General Echo, Hugh Mundell, King Tubby and Prince Far I. All were tragically murdered.

The violence in Jamaica has been infamous for decades. However, reports from earlier this year state that the murder rate is declining, and March 2012 had the lowest murder rate in more than nine years, according to U.S. research firm InSight Crime.

Statistics show that the murder rate also decreased in 2010 compared to 2009. In 2010 1,428 murders were reported compared to 1,682 in 2009, a decrease by 15 percent, according to Jamaica Observer.

Even though it’s going in the right direction, and has done so for some years now, the murder rate in Jamaica is still among the highest in the Caribbean.

Let’s hope that this positive trend continues, because far too many – both people in the music industry and others – are gone all too soon.

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Garnett Silk will always be remembered

Garnett SilkYesterday the late Garnett Silk would have turned 45 years old. Instead he died a tragic death only 28 years of age when trying to rescue his mother from a burning house that had been set on fire because of accidental gun fire on a propane gas tank. Garnett Silk was survived by a wife, three children and two brothers.

At the time he had been laying down tracks for his second album with producer Errol Brown and ten tunes were completed and released several years later.

Garnett Silk was a prominent person in the early 90’s rasta renaissance, a time when a new breed of cultural singers entered the stage. Everton Blender and Luciano were part of this movement.

He started his career deejaying as Little Bimbo with tunes such as See Bimbo Yah, but later adopted a style that was highly conscious showcasing his gospel influenced tenor voice. He marked a turning point in reggae and paved the way for singers such as Jahmali, Bushman, Sizzla, Anthony B and rasta converts like Buju Banton and Capleton.

Bobby “Digital” Dixon was the mastermind behind his only full-length album – the astonishing It’s Growing released in 1992. The album was an instant bestseller in Jamaica and Garnett Silk managed to secure an international record deal with Atlantic.

Even though he had a short career he recorded with some of Jamaica’s top talents, including King Jammy, Steely & Clevie, Richard “Bello” Bell and Sly & Robbie, dropping hit tunes like Fill Us Up With Your Mercy, Hello Mama Africa and Zion in a Vision.

After his untimely death there has been several compilations dedicated to his work. The most complete is Music is the Rod. Those who want to dig deeper can check out the two dubplate compilations Killamanjaro Remembers Garnett Silk and Garnett Silk Meets the Conquering Lion.

Garnett Silk has been compared to Bob Marley and hailed as his successor, even though Bob Marley died more than ten years before Garnett Silk dropped his debut album.

It is of course hard to predict whether Garnett Silk would have had a big international breakthrough to the general public, or remained a favourite to the reggae audience.

One thing is however crystal clear – Garnett Silk was a powerful force and is one of the most talented reggae artists of all time. He was a bright shining light and his presence will forever be remembered both through his own great work and through some of his followers – Ras Shiloh, Ras Sherby and Terry Linen. These three artists are great singers, but there is only one Garnett Silk.

Sources: The Rough Guide to Reggae by Steve Barrow & Peter Dalton and The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae by Colin Larkin (editor).

Ten must hear tunes by the late and great Garnett Silk

Garnett Silk – Jah Jah is the Ruler
Garnett Silk – Keep Them Talking
Garnett Silk – Complain
Garnett Silk – Bless Me
Garnett Silk – I am Vex
Garnett Silk – Move On Slow
Garnett Silk – Place in Your Heart
Garnett Silk & Tony RebelChristian Soldiers
Garnett Silk – Love is the Answer
Garnett Silk – Splashing Dashing

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Gregory Isaacs dies at the age of 59

Very sad news hit the world this Monday morning. According to BBC Gregory Isaacs – one of Jamaica’s sweetest vocalists ever – died on Monday in lung cancer, which he was diagnosed with a year ago. He was hospitalized in London some weeks ago and rumours said then that he had died. And now it’s a sad reality.

Gregory Isaacs started his career in the late 60’s and spent a short time in The Concords. And it was solo he became famous with both reality and lovers tunes.

His career is spanning over 40 years and he recorded with almost everybody in the Jamaican recording industry – Augustus “Gussie” Clarke, Lee Perry and Winston “Niney” Holness to name a few producers and Roots Radics and Sly & Robbie are examples of riddims sections he did masterpieces with.

He also produced himself and had his own label and record store African Museum. I think some of his best work is actually self-produced, for example the Cool Ruler set.

I’ve had many, many great moments with my Gregory Isaacs collection and he will be sadly missed. He managed to survive jail and overcome crack cocaine addiction. But cancer was one fight he couldn’t win.

Ten Gregory Isaacs tunes you need to hear:

Artist – song title (producer)

Gregory Isaacs – Rumours (Augustus Clarke)
Gregory Isaacs – Night Nurse (Gregory Isaacs & Errol “Flabba” Holt)
Gregory Isaacs & Carlene Davis – Feeling Irie (Augustus Clarke)
Gregory Isaacs – Soon Forward (Gregory Isaacs & Sly & Robbie)
Gregory Isaacs – Uncle Joe (Gregory Isaacs)
Gregory Isaacs – Mr. Cop (Lee Perry)
Gregory Isaacs – Slave Master (Winston Holness)
Gregory Isaacs – Universal Tribulation (Gregory Isaacs & Sly & Robbie)
Gregory Isaacs & Dennis Brown – Let Off the Supm (Augustus Clarke)
Gregory Isaacs & Mighty Diamonds – Rough Neck (Augustus Clarke)


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