Tag Archives: Reggae

Lee “Scratch” Perry ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Celebrating his 81st birthday today is the Grandfather of Reggae and the father of Dub Reggae, Rainford Hugh Perry, aka Lee “Scratch” Perry.

Back in the days before the word Reggae even existed — when it was still called Ska, or Bluebeat, or One Drop — Perry apprenticed at Kingston’s Studio One. There he performed a number of chores for owner Coxone Dodd, including selling records. During his short time there he managed to record some 30 songs for the label. However, Perry and Dodd didn’t get along, so Perry moved on to Joe Gibbs and Amalgamated Records. That relationship, rocky as it was, lasted longer. However, Gibbs’ money woes had him strike out on his own and Perry started up his own label, Upsetter Records in 1968. According to the WikiWackyWoo:

His first major single “People Funny Boy”, which was an insult directed at Gibbs, sold well with 60,000 copies sold in Jamaica alone. It is notable for its innovative use of a sample (a crying baby) as well as a fast, chugging beat that would soon become identifiable as “reggae” (the new kind of sound which was given the name “Steppers”). Similarly his acrimonious 1967 single as Lee “King” Perry Run for Cover was likewise aimed at Sir Coxsone. From 1968 until 1972 he worked with his studio band The Upsetters. During the 1970s, Perry released numerous recordings on a variety of record labels that he controlled, and many of his songs were popular in both Jamaica and the United Kingdom. He soon became known for his innovative production techniques as well as his eccentric character.[1] In 1970 Perry produced and released The Wailers track “Mr Brown” (1970) with its unusual use of studio effects and eerie opening highlighting his unique approach to production.

Perry produced some of the earliest tracks for the Wailers, before they signed with Island Records. Chris Blackwell took the original tracks, removed the rough edges, renamed the band Bob Marley and the Wailers, and nothing was ever the same again.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I worked for Island Records Canada in the mid-’70s, where my first contact with Lee “Scratch” Perry and Dub Reggae was the amazing LP Super Ape by The Upsetters. I loved Dub Reggae from the start because it was like Psychedelic Reggae. The fun was trying to identify the original tunes that Perry Dubbed up. It’s one album from that era I still put on and CRANK it up to 11.

Perry’s career has had its ups and downs over the years, including a December 2015 fire at his Secret Laboratory Studio. According to Rolling Stone:

Lee “Scratch” Perry‘s “secret laboratory” studio in Switzerland burned down Thursday, destroying the dub legend’s collection of studio equipment, art, stage costumes and music. “Something very very sad happened. I forgot to [put] out a candle and my whole secret laboratory burned out,” Perry wrote on Facebook, “My whole life collections, arts, my magic hats, my magic boots, all my crazy show outfits and costumes: king, pope, general, magician… All my electronics and studio equipment and my magic mic, books, musik, CDs… Everything gone.”

On Facebook, Perry also posted photos of himself standing in the burnt-out ruins of the studio, which lent its name to Perry’s 1990 LP From the Secret Laboratory. Perry also noted in his letter, “I am so sad and my wife is so mad.” As a result of the fire, Perry is asking fans to provide specially made costumes for his upcoming trek; fans who contribute an outfit will be placed on the guest list and given backstage access when the Upsetter’s trek comes to their town.

This was Perry’s second fire. In 1981 he torched his earlier Black Ark studios himself, the episode eventually blamed on a mental breakdown.

I had the extreme thrill to see Perry perform live at DubFest in Hollywood, Florida, in September of 2009. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to see him because he spends most of his time in Europe. But, I was able to knock him off my bucket list on the same day I also saw Bunny Wailer live.

Lee “Scratch” Perry is still going strong and he’s already tweeted out his own birthday greetings.

You can find many biographical details on the interwebs, but Not Now Silly is all about the music. Here’s a small sample of the hundreds of tracks that Lee “Scratch” Perry has produced and recorded over the years, starting with one of my all-time favourite Reggae tracks:

Bob Marley ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Read: The Day I Met Bob Marley

He was born Robert Nesta Marley in 1945. By the time of his 1981 death of melanoma, he was known worldwide as the Honourable Bob Marley, OM, and given a state funeral by the Jamaican government.

Starting in relative obscurity in Trenchtown, Jamaica, with The Wailers, Marley’s career lasted less than 20 years. By the time he died of cancer as a solo artist — at the far-too-young age of 36 — there were few places in the world where Bob Marley‘s name was not known, especially by people of colour and the downtrodden.

This tribute song makes the point far better than I could.

Scoot Irwin, friend to the Newsroom, reminded this writer of Marley’s upcoming birthday on the weekend, making today’s choice for a Monday Musical Appreciation a no-brainer. Then, as if by Jah, before Not Now Silly even began preparations, a news story came in unbidden over the transom. It turns out that some of Marley’s earliest live recordings were rediscovered and cleaned up. In the Guardian article ‘Spine-tingling’ lost Bob Marley tapes restored after 40 years in a cellar we learn:

The 13 reel-to-reel, analogue master tapes were discovered in cardboard box files in a run-down hotel in Kensal Rise, north-west London, the modest lodgings where Bob Marley and the Wailers stayed during their European tours in the mid-1970s.

The tapes – known as “the lost masters” among elements of Marley’s huge fanbase – were at first believed to be ruined beyond repair, largely through water damage. Yet after more than 12 months of painstaking work using the latest audio techniques, the master reels have been restored, with the sound quality of Marleywho died in 1981 but would have been 72 on Monday– described as enough to “send shivers down one’s spine”.

The tapes are the original live recordings of Marley’s concerts in London and Paris between 1974 and 1978, and feature some of his most famous tracks including No Woman No Cry, Jammin, Exodus and I Shot the Sheriff.

These were among Marley’s first concerts after going solo, recorded with the Rolling Stones mobile unit, said to be the only 24-track mobile studio in England at the time. Shows on these tapes include the London Lyceum (1975), Hammersmith Odeon (1976), and Pavilion de Paris (1978). There’s no word on whether these shows will be released commercially.

Live, with special lyrics name-checking President Barack Obama

Recently one of Marley’s earliest interview was released online. While the sound quality is not that great, it’s still wonderful to listen to a musician just on the cusp of international fame.

Bob Marley also popularized the Rastafarian religion, adopted by so many people who know and care nothing about Emperor Haile Selassie, whose name was Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael. Ras was his title, which roughly translates as “head” or “ruler.”

The shame of Marley having died so young is that we were deprived of the songs and collaborations that would have come.

There’s an entire school of thought (on which NNS is reserving judgement) that Bob Marley was assassinated by the CIA, because his brand of pan-Africanism was perceived dangerous to The Powers That Be. [Read: White people.]

As we are fond of saying here in the Not Now Silly Newsroom: It’s in the grooves. Here are some Bob Marley tunes you should never be without . . . and they’re not the ones that most people know, nor are they all political. However, the first one should give hope to all opposed to Emperor Trump.

Crank it up and D A N C E ! ! !

The Officials’ Story ► Throwback Thursday

Officials’ 4 song EP with artwork by Barbara Klunder

This Thursday we’re going to throw it all the way back to 1989, when I was managing Officials, a Worldbeat band in Toronto that had a lot of promise. 

It was my 3rd — and my very last — time managing a band, a thankless task if there ever was one. However, I was a fan of every band I managed. It was never about making money, although it was hoped that that would be the eventual outcome.

The first band I ever managed was Ishan People, Toronto’s first Roots Reggae band. I tell that story in greater detail in You Made Me So Very Happy ► My Days With David Clayton-Thomas. However, Ishan People (later Ishan Band) recorded 2 LPs before Canadian Immigration discovered that not everyone in the band had all their documents. The band broke up as some members were deported. Too bad. They were great.

The second band I managed was Drastic Measures. They should have done much better. However, DM was performing Art/Pop Rock when all anyone wanted to hear was Punk. Clever music was simply not breaking through the noise back then.

An unironic cover of the classic Bing Crosby
tune with Nash the Slash on overdubbed violins.

How is that going to break through The Angry Punk Scene? It was all uphill.

The band fired me after their record producer convinced them they no longer needed a manager because they had a album release. No. Really. I always suspected that he had hoped to manage the band himself, but that never happened. Managerless, Drastic Measures never did break through the noise.

Then in ’89 it was Officials. I originally met leader/drummer Roy Garrick when we both worked as waiters in the same restaurant. Somehow he learned that I had managed bands previously and asked me to listen to Officials to see if I wanted to manage them.

The band set up in a small, sweltering basement near Bathurst and Vaughan. The room was so small it barely contained the band and their equipment. There was nowhere to move. Under these static conditions Officials performed an entire, blistering set for me as the only audience member.

I was blown away. They were easily better than any of the bands I was seeing in Toronto clubs at the time. Officials blended various musical genres. The band members were from many different parts of the globe, making them a true World Beat band. I couldn’t wait to offer my services as manager.

For bonus points, on guitar and vocals was Del Richardson from Osibisa, whose LPs I had promoted years earlier when I worked for Island Records Canada.

So, we set about putting together a master plan. Aside from gigging as often as humanly possible for as much, or little, money as I could squeeze out of the club owners, that included rolling all profits into recording a 4 song 12″ EP as a demo record to use to get signed to a bigger label.

We were grateful to get all these column inches in The Star

One of the jobs of Manager is stroking the media, trying to get them out to gigs or to review the EP. Or, in this case, both.

Yesterday, while going through my analog file cabinet, I came across a letter I sent to The Toronto Star’s Craig MacInnes, promoting the hell out of the band. [SYNCHRONICITY ALERT: Recently MacInnes and I became facefriends through a mutual face-to-face-friend.]

This came at a transitional period for the band because there had been a recent change in personnel. Consequently, the band bio that I had spent several weeks writing was no longer operative. MacInnes was asking me for biographical info on the new band members in anticipation of an upcoming interview with Garrick.

My reply began:

Firstly, I’d like to thank you for your continued interest and support of OFFICIALS. Secondly, I’d like to apologize for the rushed nature of this information. We were in the process of preparing a new biography. This request just made me do it all the sooner.

Every review was a feather in my cap

After describing the new members, I ended the letter with as many strokes as I thought I could give MacInnes — without him thinking I was trying to kiss his ass for a good review — ending with one last plug for my clients:

Well, Craig, that’s about it. 

Nobody knows how hard it is for new independent bands starting out like you do. You must hear hundreds of stories like this. It’s good to know you are out there supporting the up and coming bands.

I’ve been working with OFFICIALS for a year now. I managed ISHAN PEOPLE (Canada’s first Reggae band) as well as DRASTIC MEASURES (an early Queen Street W. Art/Rock band). Neither had the staying power and the chance to make it that OFFICIALS do. Unlike other bands working in town now, OFFICIALS are truly a WorldBeat band honestly synthesizing many different rhythms into what we call OFFICIALS’ Style. Conventions are unimportant; what’s important is what works and what sounds good and positive lyrics and a dancable [sic] beat. Nothing else enters into it. But, don’t take my word for it. Come down to the Diamond Club and hear us. I know you’ll like the band. 

Thank you for all your time and trouble on our behalf.

The letter led to a phone interview published 3 days later (see above), so I guess it did the trick.

What I find highly amusing in retrospect is that MacInnes begins with his amazement that Roy Garrick has a car phone at a time when The Brick was the new cell phone technology. Now, 27 years later, most of us carry a phone in our pocket.

All good things must come to an end. My tenure with Officials ended spectacularly: I quit after the band held back money owed to me following an extremely well-paying 2-week gig in the Caribbean.

The agreement we had was not the standard manager/band contract. As opposed to a percentage, we split the proceeds equally (after expenses), which gave me a smaller percentage than I would have as a manager. However, it gave us all equal incentive to take it all to the next level.

When I quit I naturally had all of the band’s files, including distribution contracts, band bios, glossies, and all the promo material, in my analog file cabinet. I became THAT asshole: I refused to turn it over to the band unless they paid the money owed to me from previous gigs. We settled on $2500 and the band signed a promissory note for the money. It has never been paid. It was also one of the documents I discovered yesterday.

A few years back I created a video from one of Officials’ songs. I hope you like it, but I guess I don’t really care all that much.

Peter Tosh ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Born on this day: Winston Hubert McIntosh, better known to Reggae fans as Peter Tosh, one of the original Wailers. 

At the age of 15 Tosh moved to Trench Town in Kingston, Jamaica, after the death of his aunt in Westmoreland, Jamaica, where he was born. According to the legend, recounted by the WikiWackyWoo:

He first picked up a guitar by watching a man in the country play a song that captivated him. He watched the man play the same song for half a day, memorizing everything his fingers were doing. He then picked up the guitar and played the song back to the man. The man then asked McIntosh who had taught him to play; McIntosh told him that he had.[2] During the early 1960s Tosh met Robert Nesta Marley (Bob Marley) and Neville O’Reilly Livingston (Bunny Wailer) and went to vocal teacher Joe Higgs, who gave out free vocal lessons to young people, in hopes to form a new band. He then changed his name to become Peter Tosh and the trio started singing together in 1962. Higgs taught the trio to harmonize and while developing their music, they would often play on the street corners of Trenchtown.[3]

[…] In 1964 Tosh helped organize the band The Wailing Wailers, with Junior Braithwaite, a falsetto singer, and backup singers Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith. Initially, Tosh was the only one in the group who could play musical instruments. According to Bunny Wailer,
Tosh was critical to the band because he was a self-taught guitarist
and keyboardist, and thus became an inspiration for the other band
members to learn to play. The Wailing Wailers had a major ska
hit with their first single, “Simmer Down”, and recorded several more
successful singles before Braithwaite, Kelso and Smith left the band in
late 1965. Marley spent much of 1966 in Delaware in the United States of America with his mother, Cedella (Malcolm) Marley-Booker and for a brief time was working at a nearby Chrysler
factory. He then returned to Jamaica in early 1967 with a renewed
interest in music and a new spirituality. Tosh and Bunny were already
Rastafarians when Marley returned from the U.S., and the three became
very involved with the Rastafari faith. Soon afterwards, they renamed
the musical group The Wailers. Tosh would explain later that they chose
the name Wailers because to “wail” means to mourn or to, as he put it,
“…express one’s feelings vocally”. He also claims that he was the
beginning of the group, and that it was he who first taught Bob Marley
the guitar. The latter claim may very well be true, for according to Bunny Wailer, the early wailers learned to play instruments from Tosh.[4]

The Wailing Wailers eschewed the rapid, feel-good Ska beat for a slower, slinkier beat, which became known as Rocksteady, One Drop, and eventually Reggae. They dropped the “Wailing” from their name and became The Wailers. Some of Marley’s biggest hits were originally recorded during this time and written, or co-written, by Peter Tosh. It wasn’t until Chris Blackwell signed them to Island Records did they become Bob Marley and the Wailers.

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I once worked for Island Records Canada.]

Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer left Island Records when Blackwell, who had groomed Marley to become a star, refused to release their solo records. Soon after, Tosh released the Legalize It LP. The titular song is still an anthem for the Marijuana Movement worldwide.

A few years later Tosh appeared at the One Love Peace Concert and lit a spliff onstage, lecturing the assembled politicians on the unfair marijuana laws. According to the Wiki: Several months later he was apprehended by police as he left Skateland
dance hall in Kingston and was beaten severely while in police custody.

Peter Tosh was posthumously awarded the Order of Merit by the Jamaican government and while he never achieved the fame of Bob Marley, he never lost his street cred and is considered the most controversial member of The Wailers.

To celebrate his birthday, there will be 2 symposiums, today and tomorrow, in Jamaica. According to the Jamaican Observer:

The first is staged by the Kingston and St Andrew Ganja Growers and
Producers Association and the National Alliance for the Legalisation of
Ganja in partnership with the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation at
Curphey Place in St Andrew.

It reflects on the life and legacy of Tosh, an unrepentant advocate for
the legalisation of ganja. Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown-Burke will
address the forum, which has a panel moderated by her husband Paul
Burke, Tosh’s former manager Herbie Miller, social activist Louis
Moyston, and UWI lecturer, Dr Michael Barnett.

Guest speakers include Tosh’s friend, former Jamaica footballer Allan
‘Skill’ Cole; president of the National Ganja Growers Association,
Orville Silvera, and Minister of Transport Dr Omar Davies.

Tomorrow’s event is the annual Peter Tosh Symposium at the University of the West Indies’ Mona campus.

Arguably reggae’s most militant figure, Tosh (born Winston Hubert
McIntosh) was killed by gunmen at his home on September 11 1987. He was

U-Roy ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Let’s get right to it. Had it not been for Reggae “toasting,” or “dancehall,” there would have been no Rap or Hip Hop. U-Roy, was not only one of the firsts in the genre, but one of the best.

Born Ewart Beckford on this day in 1942, U-Roy got his nickname from a family member who couldn’t pronounce his real name.

According to the WikiWackyWoo:

As a young man Beckford listened to the music of Louis Prima, James Brown, Ruth Brown, Fats Domino, Rufus Thomas, Smiley Lewis and was especially influenced by the vocal phrasing of Louis Jordan.

U-Roy’s first single
U-Roy began as a DJ in 1961 toasting over the records at live events. In Jamaica there was no access to radio, so the toasting was done at live shows in front of a “sound system.” Moving from one sound system to another, it took almost a decade before his career took off, but when it did U-Roy changed the face of Reggae music.
U-Roy has worked with the great producers of Dub Reggae, from King Tubby to Lee “Scratch” Perry, going from height to height.

According to All Music: 
His toasts were utterly relaxed
and conversational, yet always in perfect synchronicity with the
rhythms. The DJ had now gained a significant following in the U.K., as
well, and in August 1976, visited Britain for the first time. He
performed at the London Lyceum, backed by the always excellent
Revolutionaries, and the 1978 Live EP was drawn from this phenomenal
show. Back in Jamaica, U-Roy began recording his new album, Rasta Ambassador,
filling the studio with musicians and singers, 15 strong in all. The
Gladiators provided particularly sonorous backing vocals, while the
band, led by the rhythm team of Sly & Robbie,
created a deep roots sound appropriate to the album’s title and
accentuated by Robinson’s deeply dubby production. 
U-Roy is still toasting and we are still listening. As always the proof is in the record grooves and in the beat. Listen to U-Roy and you’ll see why he was awarded Jamaica’s Order of Distinction. A fitting distinction for a man who changed the face of Reggae music.

Linton Kwesi Johnson ► A Monday Musical Appreciation

Celebrating a birthday today is Linton Kwesi Johnson, the first Dub Poet. I first became aware of him through Island Records Canada, which I worked for in the ’70s, and he was already a force in Britain. In 2012, according to the The Guardian:

Father of dub poetry Linton Kwesi Johnson will join names including Harold Pinter, JG Ballard and Doris Lessing as winner of the Golden PEN award, for a lifetime’s distinguished service to literature.

Known for his controversial poem “Inglan Is A Bitch“, and for “Di Great Insohreckshan“,
a response to the 1981 Brixton riots in which he stated “It is noh
mistri / we mekkin histri”, Johnson writes what he calls “dub poetry”, a
blend of reggae music and verse written in a Jamaican-London
vernacular. Often performing with the Dennis Bovell Dub Band, he has
been writing and performing since the mid-1970s. In 2002, he was the
second living poet, and the only black poet, to be included in the
Penguin Modern Classic Series.

Linton Kwesi Johnson accepting his Golden PEN award

Johnson was chosen by the trustees of English PEN to receive the
honour. President and author Gillian Slovo described him as “an artistic
innovator, a ground-breaker who has used poetry to talk politics and
who first gave voice to, and who continues to give voice to, the
experience of moving country and of living in this one”.

Johnson himself said he was “surprised and humbled” to win the prize,
because his poetry is from the “little tradition” of Caribbean verse.
“I hope that by conferring on me this award, English PEN will involve
more black writers in its important work and that more black writers
will support English PEN,” he said.

His British Council Literature page says, in part:

He joined the Black Panther movement in 1970, organising a poetry workshop and working with Rasta Love, a group of poets and percussionists. He joined the Brixton-based Race Today Collective in 1974. His first book of poems, Voices of the Living and the Dead, was published by the Race Today imprint in 1974. His second book, Dread, Beat An’ Blood (1975) includes poems written in Jamaican dialect, and was released as a record in 1978. He is widely regarded as the father of ‘dub poetry’, a term he coined to describe the way a number of reggae DJs blended music and verse. Johnson maintains that his starting point and focus is poetry, composed before the music, and for this reason he considers the term ‘dub poetry’ misleading when applied to his own work. He recorded several albums on the Island label, including Forces of Victory (1979), Bass Culture (1980), LKJ In dub (1980) and Making History (1984) and founded his own record label – LKJ – in the mid-1980s, selling over two million records worldwide. 

According to John Dougan’s Artist Biography at All Music:

Although he has only released one album of new material in the last ten
years, and virtually retired from the live stage after his 1985 tour, Linton Kwesi Johnson remains a towering figure in reggae music. Born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in the Brixton section of London, Johnson invented dub poetry, a type of toasting descended from the DJ stylings of U-Roy and I-Roy. But whereas toasting tended to be hyperkinetic and given to fits of braggadocio, Johnson‘s
poetry (which is what it was — he was a published poet and journalist
before he performed with a band) was more scripted and delivered in a
more languid, slangy, streetwise style.

But, as always, it’s all about The Music:

The Monday Musical Appreciation is a brand new Not Now Silly feature, bringing insight into the music that turns me on.

The Day I Met Bob Marley ► Part Two

As Part One of The Day I Met Bob Marley ended, I had just been given word by my boss at Island Records that instead of going to the two Bob Marley concerts at the University of Toronto’s Convocation Hall, I was being sent on a secret mission to New York City. You’re on the honour system that you’ve read Part One before continuing.

When Bob Marley and the band arrived in Toronto, the entire Island Records of Canada staff — all 3 of us — headed on over to Convocation Hall for some meeting and greeting, and for me to pick up the audio tapes. These live concert recordings were of the first 5 dates on the tour and had been smuggled into Canada by the band. Now I had to smuggle them back into the United States.

The dressing room at Convocation Hall was about 15’x15′. When we arrived we could barely see across the room due to all the ganja smoke. Marley and the band had a lot of friends in Toronto’s Jamaican community and they had already delivered the sacramental herb. My first shock was that Bob Marley was no taller than I am. I had only seen pictures and videos of him on stage and he seemed like a giant. Yet, he must have clocked in at 5’7″, or so, because we were standing there looking eye to eye. And that’s when the spliff came around to us.

Did I say spliff? This was an uber-spliff. This was the spliff to end all spliffs. Imagine something the size and basic shape of a baseball bat, with the fat end — the business end — — the burning end!!! — as big around as a softball. It tapered to a point and the whole thing was wrapped in a newspaper.

As I stood making pleasantries with Bob Marley, the spliff came around to him. Bob, being polite — or maybe just because he was testing me — passed it to me. Well, I was no rookie at this, and had been know to inhale, so I grabbed that sucker and took a good haul.


I started coughing — no, choking — and Bob Marley thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen in his entire life. My second shock about Bob Marley: He giggled like a little girl. A happy, infectious, crowd-affecting laugh that had me laughing, even as the tears streamed down my cheeks. He put his arm around my shoulders and rocked at the waist with laughter. So did I. I took a 2nd haul, which was more successful than the first, passed it back to Marley, and then we got on to business.

The tour manager handed me my charges: Five, two inch, 24-track audio tapes in cardboard boxes, making it a loose stack almost a foot high. Today this could be put on a thumb drive. Back then this was the only available storage device. My mission: take these tapes, fly them to New York City on my lap, and put them directly into the hands of Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records. The tapes are to never leave my sight. The tapes are not to be x-rayed. I am to give them to no one other than Chris Blackwell. Most importantly: When crossing the border I must never admit that the tapes contain live concert recordings. No one knew what the duty on such a thing might be and no one wanted to admit these tapes never should have been smuggled into Canada in the first place.

I never like to leave a smoke-filled room, especially one with Bob Marley in it, but there was only so much time to make my flight to New York. I grabbed the awkward pile of tapes and took them my car, one of a series a of Volkswagon Beetles I owned in the day, with the most amazing sound system in it for the day. It was like sitting in a set of headphones. I slipped in the cassette Bob Marley and the Wailers “Live! and cranked it up as loud as I could stand. If I was going to miss the concert at least I could have a concert in the car.

Crank it up!!!

When I arrived at short term parking the shuttle bus was just pulling up. I grabbed the tapes and started running to catch it. The lid of the box on top of the pile caught the wind and flew open, papers flying all over the place. I dropped the tapes I was carrying and started chasing the paper around the parking lot until I got them all. As I grabbed the last one I watched the shuttle bus pull away.

The papers were all 8.5 x 11 photocopied sheets, with all the recording info for each track written in hand. I realized 2 things immediately: 1). There were no other copies of these documents, I had the originals; 2). How can I say I don’t know what’s on these tapes if what’s on these tapes is written on pieces of paper and stored right with the tapes? I opened all the boxes, took out all the paper, folded them up and put them in my pocket, and waited for the next shuttle bus.

Pearson Airport was a lot smaller in those days. Then, as now, travelers pass through U.S. Customs at the Toronto airport. Before you are funneled to your gate, you must satisfy the U.S. Border Patrol in Toronto. Once you pass that checkpoint, you are technically in the U.S. I managed to satisfy the officer on identity and citizenship, but, as you have probably guessed already, got tripped up on the tapes, which I refused to allow them to x-ray. This is an approximation of how that went.

“You’re more than welcome to examine them, but my instructions are they cannot be x-rayed because that would destroy what’s on the tapes.”

He examines them and satisfies himself that the tapes are just tapes, but he’s never seen 2-inch audio tape before, so he’s a bit confused.

“What’s on the tapes?”

“I don’t know. I’m merely a messenger.”

Now he’s really confused.

“Hang on a second.”

He brings another U.S. Customs guy who is higher up the food chain to look at the tapes.

This guy examines them and satisfies himself that the tapes are just tapes,
but he’s never seen 2-inch audio tape before either, so he’s a bit
confused, just like the first guy.

“What’s on the tapes?”

“I don’t know. I’m just a messenger.”

“Hang on a second.”

They both go off to have a private discussion in a room with a window that I can look into. I see them drag a few more Custom agents into the room. A huge discussion ensues and I’m starting to wonder if I need to proclaim my ‘Merkin citizenship to get into ‘Merka with these tapes.

All this time the clock is doing its thing: Tick, tock, boys! Let’s get it on. I’ve got a flight to catch. All the time they’re quite pleasant and I’m quite pleasant, but I’m starting to get insistent that I have to get to New York City by a certain time. I know there is only a 2-hour window before Chris Blackwell has to fly to London with the tapes. If I miss that connection I might have to fly to London to deliver the tapes and I didn’t pack for that. For that matter, I didn’t pack for New York City. All I was carrying were the tapes.

Meanwhile, I missed my flight while these custom agents were arguing amongst themselves. It turned out that what was causing the delay is that they had to charge me duty on the audio tape. However, there were no references to 2-inch tape in the Big Book of Import Duties. They couldn’t let me into the States before I paid duty on the tape, but they didn’t know what to charge me.

Remember when everyone didn’t carry a phone in their pocket? The next argument I had with them was that I had to use their phone to call the office to get further instructions now that they caused me to miss my plane.

“You can’t use the phone while you’re here.”


I argued that it was their dithering that made me miss my flight. I’m just a courier. I not only need further instructions, but needed someone from the office to rebook my flight if they still wanted me to effect delivery. That was a 15 minute argument that I finally won, as I got louder and louder. Eventually I got Kathy Hahn on the phone in the middle of what was a very hectic day for her. She said she’d take care of it. However, she needed a number where she could call me back.

“What’s the number here?”

“You can’t have people calling you here!”

However, they said I could use the phone as much as I needed while they sorted out their problem. I had just successfully turned the U.S. Customs’ telephone into my personal office. I made several more quick calls and then waited for about 15 minutes more minutes before one of the geniuses at U.S. Customs had a breakthrough of his own. Since the book gave them the duty for a cassette tape, which is an eighth of an inch, why not multiply that by 16 to get the duty for a 2 inch tape? We all celebrated that an answer to our conundrum presented itself. Now came a new conundrum.

“How long is the tape?”

“How the hell am I supposed to know? And, we’re not laying it out on the ground to measure it.”

“Is it 50 feet?”

“Yeah, sure, okay, let’s say it’s 50 feet.”

They took out a calculator and starting hitting the buttons. “Fifty feet, times an eighth inch, times 16 equals . . . “

I can’t remember the exact price of the duty, but let’s pretend it was $34.72. I had $35.00 in my pocket, just enough to pay the duty, but not enough left over for anything else. I paid the duty and called the office. Kathy had managed to book me on another plane to New York. However, what would have been a conversation with Chris Blackwell lasting an hour and a half, would be reduced to a half hour.

My new flight was delayed 15 minutes getting off the ground and I started wondering whether I would end up in London before my next sleep. Toronto to NYC is a mere puddle-jump and no sooner than you get to cruising altitude than it’s time to start your descent. I glanced at my watch and realized it was going to be touch and go. Blackwell’s flight to London was imminent and I am already several hours late. Will he even be at the gate to meet me?

When I got off the plane, there was Chris Blackwell right at my gate, looking incredibly anxious. He thanked me very much and apologized that he had to run, but his flight was on the exact opposite side of the airport and he would be lucky to make it. I fulfilled my sacred obligation and put the tapes directly in Chris Blackwell’s hands. As I did so I stumbled through a sentence that might be interpreted as “I’m so proud to be able to work with Island Records,” but probably came across as total gibberish, and then he was gone.

The first and only time I was ever in Chris Blackwell’s presence.

Now what?

I had the company credit card. I could go have a bacchanalian night in New York City on the company’s dime. However, I just happened to look up at the departure board and saw that there was a flight back to Toronto leaving almost immediately. If I made that flight, it might not be a total loss; I might be able to catch some of the 2nd Marley concert after all. Amazingly there were still seats on that plane. I paid for the tickets with the Island Records credit card and boarded almost immediately. The flight got off the ground on time and there were no other delays. For the first time all day things are going smoothly.

We landed at Pearson Airport. where I caught shuttle bus back to the parking lot, jumped into my car, and cranked up the music. Then I raced down the 427 to the QEW, shot across to the Gardiner and then over to Spadina, screamed north, dodging streetcars and pedestrians in Chinatown, and over to the U of T campus. I drove right up onto the sidewalk to the side door of Convocation Hall.

I no sooner pulled up to the building than the doors opened and the audience rushed out, trapping me and my car for the next 20 minutes while a cop argued I couldn’t park there. I missed both Bob Marley concerts. What’s worse, I spent less time with Chris Blackwell than I had Bob Marley and I only spent 5 minutes with Marley.

And, that kiddies, is the story of the day I met Bob Marley. Island Records was very gracious and paid to have me go see Bob Marley and the Wailers in concert at Detroit’s Masonic Temple. I also hooked a vacation in Detroit, my home town, visiting family and friends before I went back to Toronto.

The Day I Met Bob Marley ► Part One

I’ve dined out on this story among family and friends a few times over the years. However, I never told it in an official forum until interviewed for the wonderful documentary podcast How Jamaica Conquered the World. While Roifield Brown did a terrific job editing my rambling into a coherent story, I knew I could do better in print. However, first I want to put in a good word for Roifield’s great site. In its own words:

For a nation that gained independence from the British only 50 years ago, Jamaicans have left their mark on music, sport, style and language around the globe and have become an international marker of ‘cool’. Jamaican music has colonised the new and old world alike, its athletes break world records with impunity and youngsters the world over are incorporating Jamaican slang into their dialects. Despite this the country has reaped no economic reward in return, unlike empires of old, and Jamaica still remains an economic pygmy. Jamaican influence has unconsciously spawned creative innovation around the globe and to this day it remains a country to be studied, celebrated, and demystified. Through the help of linguists, artists, musicians, and historians we take a closer look as to how Jamaican culture conquered the world. 

How Jamaica Conquered the World is a class act, and I’d be saying that even if I didn’t appear in a couple of segments. As both history and a jukebox of Caribbean music, How Jamaica Conquered the World is worth as much time as you can devote to it.

Okay, kiddies, pull up a chair and pour yourself a cup of coffee, because this one’s going to be long . . .

On the day I met Bob Marley I was already working for Island Records Canada as a Record Promo Guy. It was one of my first jobs out of college and I was the low man on the totem pole in an office of 3 people. We three were required to cover the entire country of Canada, the 2nd largest country in the world

It’s worth mentioning how I came to work at Island Records because that also involves Bob Marley. A year earlier I had been the first full-time paid manager of Radio Sheridan. It was one of the few campus stations that received personal visits from the Record Promo Reps from all the major companies. Campus radio was much maligned in those days by the record companies, and deservedly so. A company would take the time and expense to package records and send them to a campus station, where they would rarely find their way into the library. They’d disappear into someone’s record collection.

By this time Radio Sheridan was 3 years old. It wasn’t an official part of the college; it was merely tolerated by Sheridan College. A small group of us, some attached to the student government and others in the Media Arts program, designed the concept of the radio station broadcasting on a closed-loop antenna system. We pitched it to the student government, which fell into line behind it. They presented it to Administration, which not only approved it, but gave us 2 very small rooms on the 2nd floor of the new wing. The station was entirely student-funded, student-built, and student-operated. I started off as Assistant Manager and later became the first (and as far as I know only) full-time paid Station Manager. I ‘hired’ Lorraine Segato to be one of my DJs and like to feel I set her off on her path to brilliance. 

Unlike other campus stations, from Day One, we felt it important that every record Radio Sheridan ever received was cataloged and shelved in the library. No genre or era was off limits and the only time a record was shelved with the words NO PLAY on it had to do 4-letter words, not musical styles. It was still shelved and everyone of us played George Carlin’s 7 Words You Can’t Say at least once. The rules were as flexible as any DJ wanted to try and get away with. It was the great era of Free Form Radio. We were all trying to emulate David Pritchard and David Marsden of CHUM-FM, when those guys were crazy MoFos on the air and playlists hadn’t been tightened up by the Radio Consultants, who were the real villains that ruined the medium of music radio.

However, Radio Sheridan had 3 things going for it, as far as the Majors (as we called the record companies) were concerned: 1). They could find every record they ever gave us in our library; 2). We would play music the other stations wouldn’t; 3). We were just off the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) between Toronto, where they all had head offices, and Hamilton, the next largest radio market in Ontario (if you ignored Windsor and lots tried). More than one Record Rep remarked how it was a nice stopover during a Hamilton swing. And those of us who worked at Radio Sheridan were eager acolytes for their records, posters, and concert tickets.

Kathy Hahn, a dear friend to this day, presents Bob Marley with a Canadian
Gold LP for Exodus in Jamaica, the 1st and only time a Canadian Gold
LP awarded outside the country; circa 1979

By the time I became full time Radio Sheridan Station Manager, we were getting so many records sent to us in the mail and hand-delivered by Record Reps that there was always a slush pile. Each record had to be listened to, categorized by genre and artist, duplicate file cards made, and then shelved in the record library. There was a pile of about 50 records on the day I first heard from the head of Island Records Canada. I was impressed that the head of the company was calling. I didn’t know the office consisted of just him and his assistant, Kathy Hahn, who I later discovered actually ran the office and made everything operate on schedule. The head of Island Records Canada was on the phone asking me whether I had received the latest records Kathy had sent in the mail. I assured him that I did, but had not had a chance to listen to them yet before shelving them. Then this guy started in on the hard sell (paraphrasing), “Oh you gotta listen. This is the next big thing. You need to jump on this. You’re going to hear a lot about Bob Marley.”

I hadn’t heard of Bob Marley before. More importantly, as far as I was concerned at that exact moment, I had never had a Record Promo Rep using such hard sell on me. The Promo Guys that serviced Radio Sheridan were all casual. They’d toss a record in our direction and say, “Give this a listen.” If we came back and said, “Hey, we like that artist,” the Rep might arrange to have the entire back catalog sent to us, or posters and concert tickets if those were available. The one thing they knew better than to do was to try and “sell” us on an artist. The music was either in the grooves, or it wasn’t.

However, this guy from Island Records was already irritating me and it was only our first phone call. I assured him I’d listen to his records just as soon as they floated to the top of the slush pile. However, that wasn’t the end of it. A few days later he called back, asking whether I’d listened to them yet. I explained the Hobson’s Choice system I developed: New records go on the bottom of the pile. I listen and shelve from the top of the pile. His records were mid-way in the pile, but they’d eventually make it to the top.

That’s when he started on the hard sell again. No other Promo Rep had ever tried to “promote” their records at me this vociferously and it was beginning to piss me off.

A few days later I go through the whole thing again with him. That’s when I flipped out at him. “Hear what I’m doing? I’m putting your records on the top of the pile. They will be the next records I listen to.”

I hung up absolutely prepared to hate the records almost as much as I had begun to hate the disembodied voice from the Bedford Road offices of “Island Records.” I put the first record on the turntable and dropped the needle. What happened next was four minutes and 15 seconds that changed my life. This is not hyperbole. Listen:

The first 30 seconds of Concrete Jungle were absolutely magical to me. It starts off with two guitars just noodling around, almost as if they are tuning up without structure. A single organ note sings in the background. At about 8 seconds in a drum beat sputters and then locks in. A bass guitar drops in a few notes here and there, while a lead guitar plays a few sustained chords and then a meandering lead line. Another keyboard is adding random notes. These instruments swirl around each other making no music I has ever heard of before. Then, at the 30 second mark, this kaleidoscopic swirl of what sounds like random instrumentation locks into place with the One Drop, bass and drums. Riddem!

I was hooked!!! Immediately!!!

For the first time in my life music SPOKE to me in a way that none had previously. Reggae penetrated my very soul. I felt it deep, deep within me. Within 6 months I was working for Island Records as Record Promo Rep and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer of Island Records Canada. One of my first surprises was that the head office for Island Records Canada was two front rooms of a beautiful house at 93 Bedford Road. The house was semi-famous, having appeared in two movies: The Last Detail and The Paper Chase. The rest of the house was residences, with a family living on the 2nd floor and a bachelor on the third floor. I eventually moved into a basement apartment in the house where I only had to walk upstairs to get to work, until I got hired away to United Artists in Scarberia.

My second surprise is that in a 3-person office, I would be called upon do do anything and everything, as we all did. One day I would be stuffing envelopes with the press release I had written the day before and picked up at the printer’s that morning. The next day I might be the limo driver taking Robert Palmer and his 2 singers to a concert at the CNE grounds, while they practiced the difficult “doobey doobey doops” back-up vocals of Hey Julia and Sneaking Sally Through The Alley in the back seat.

The most exciting and busy time in the life of a Record Promo Rep is the period immediately preceding one of your artists coming to town for a concert. Bob Marley and the Wailers had announced a North ‘Merkin tour for April to June of 1976 to promote the new release, Rastaman Vibration.

When one of your acts is coming to town, there’s a lot of prep work to be done. While the promoter will take out advertising to promote the concert, the record company will also take out adverts to promote the music currently available in stores. Sometimes those ads are designed in-house, but most of the time head office supplies camera-ready artwork, which still needs to be placed where the local office feels the most eyeballs will see it. In the case of Bob Marley, an artist barely known outside his native Jamaica in 1976, we did a lot of non-traditional advertising, naturally targeting the small weeklies and record stores that served Toronto’s large Jamaican population, much of which was strung along Eglington West, around Oakwood.

One of the jobs of a Promo Rep is to put up displays at the record stores and cajole the staff to rack the LPs up front. You see, kiddies, in the olden days of mortar and brick music machines, music could still be an impulse buy, like gum still is at supermarkets. When one of your acts is coming to town, this is done on steroids. At least a month ahead of time you would start putting up displays at all the record stores, beginning with those downtown and working out to the suburbs. The displays would include concert posters and racks for the various LPs the artist had out.

While it’s not exactly Payola, three things a Record Rep has in abundance are free LPs, free posters, and free concert tickets. These are spread around where they will do the artist the most good, as is access to the artist by radio and tee vee people. Artists will let you know in advance what their press availability will be. It’s up to the Promo Rep to apportion that time where it will do the artist the most good. These interviews won’t help concert sales (unless sales are slow, for which last minute interviews can be helpful), but will help record sales, which was the primary goal. The interviews will also be used ‘down the line’ as promo material for the upcoming shows on the tour, which could help ticket sales in future cities, which will lead to record sales.

While all tour arrangements (travel, hotel, meals) are handled by someone else, once the band arrives in town it’s the job of the record company, and most often the Promo Reps, to ferry them around town, make sure they get to any interviews and/or signings on time, and, most importantly, make sure they arrive at the concert venue in time. This often requires precision timing. Itineraries broken down into 15 minute increments are prepared, photocopied, and passed out to everyone who will need them.

The month before an artist comes to town is the most frantic time in the life of a Promo Rep, which only gets more frantic every day as the calendar counts down to Concert Day, which is the most frantic of all. One only gets to breathe a sigh of relief when the artist becomes the responsibility of the next Promo Rep in the next town on the tour.

The day I met Bob Marley was the most frantic day I ever had in the Music Bidnezz. It began in the Bedford Road HQ of Island Canada as we sat around going over a checklist of things that still needed to be done when the boss said, “You won’t be able to go to the concert, Headly.”


I pretty much exploded.

“I’ve just spent a month working my ass off for this concert. I’ve papered dozens of record store walls in posters and empty LP covers. I’ve cajoled the alternative papers into doing articles in advance of the concert. I convinced some alternative radio stations to play some Marley, even though they’ve never heard of Reggae before. I’ve set up interviews with Bob Marley and made dozens of arrangements with people who will be at the show tonight. And, now you’re telling me I can’t go to the show?”

That’s when it was explained that I would be on a special, secret mission for Island Record International!!!

Here was the master plan: the two concerts at the University of Toronto’s Convocation Hall were the sixth and seventh on the tour, with Montreal the night before. Prior to that were four dates in the States: Upper Darby, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; Boston, and New York City. The tour was being recorded and the band had smuggled several 2-inch reel-to-reel, 24-track recordings of the previous concert dates into Canada. They knew better than to try and smuggle ganja into Canada, knowing there were enough Jamaicans who wanted to present them with the sacramental plant upon their arrival. However, audio tapes? Those they smuggled into Canada without declaring them or paying any duty on them.

My secret mission was to collect the tapes from the band when they arrived, smuggle them back into the United States, and put them directly into the hands of Chris Blackwell.


At that time in my life Chris Blackwell would have been the only person who I would have missed Marley for. Chris Blackwell was my musical hero. Chris Blackwell was the man who started up Island Records and still the head guy. A slight tangent is in order for A Short Biography of Chris Blackwell:

Although born in London (in 1937), Chris Blackwell spent his childhood in Jamaica. His mother came from a prominent family, said to be one of the 21 families that controlled Jamaica during the 20th century. After his parents divorced his mother took up with Ian Fleming and is said to be the inspiration for Pussy Galore. These days Chris Blackwell owns Goldeneye, where Fleming wrote all the James Bond novels. However, if that were it, there would be no reason to write this tangent.

At the age of 21 Blackwell had a boating accident off Jamaica’s southern coast when he crashed his sailboat on a coral reef. He swam to shore, collapsing on the beach in exhaustion. There he was rescued by some Rastafarian fisherman, who took care of him until he was healthy enough to leave. However, if that were it, there would still be no reason to write this tangent.

A year later, Chris Blackwell started Island Records, naming it after the Alec Waugh novel “Island in the Sun.”  Blackwell started releasing Jamaican music in 1959 and had limited regional success. In 1962 Blackwell moved Island operations to London and started making inroads in the Jamaican community with some early Ska and Bluebeat tunes that he had either recorded or licensed. One of those early licenses was for “My Boy Lollypop” by Millie Small, the cover of a 1956 tune by Barbie Gaye, one of the first hit songs in the newly emerging style of Ska.

Compare Millie Small’s version of My Boy Lollypop with Barbie Gaye’s:

As the WikiWhackyWoo quotes Blackwell:

I didn’t put it [the Millie Small single] on Island because I knew it was going to be so big. Independent labels in those days couldn’t handle hits, because you couldn’t pay the pressing plant in time to supply the demand, so I licensed it to Fontana, which was part of Philips. It was a big hit all around the world, and I really wanted to look after Millie, so I went everywhere with her, which took me into the mainstream of the record industry. I was lucky enough to see Stevie Winwood with the Spencer Davis Group, at a TV show in Birmingham. So then I started to spend more time in that area. This whole new music was emerging.

By “new music” Blackwell wasn’t talking about Reggae; that came later, after Island had already signed a few acts.With the proceeds of the smash Millie Small hit, he started signing bands to Island Records. After Spencer Davis Group and Steve Winwood came other Island signings: Traffic; Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Cat Stevens; Jethro Tull; Free; Fairport Convention; Kevin Ayers; Georgie Fame; Sparks; John Martyn; Spooky Tooth; Nick Drake; Roxy Music, Brian Eno; John Cale; The Chieftains; Richard and Linda Thompson; U2; Pete Wingfield; and many more. While many of these artists were signed to Island Records, Blackwell licensed some of these acts to other record companies in North America. To confuse matters even more, there were times the recordings were licensed to a different record company in Canada than ‘Merka.

And, that’s where I came in. I had been listening to music from Chris Blackwell for years, much longer than I had been listening to Reggae. Sure I’d be willing to miss two Bob Marley concerts at Convocation Hall to meet Chris Blackwell. He was one of my heroes.

Read Part Two of The Day I Met Bob Marley.

You Made Me So Very Happy ► My Days With David Clayton-Thomas

David Clayton-Thomas by Carl Lender

Dateline September 13, 1941 – A baby is born in war time England, Thames, Surrey, UK, and named David Henry Thomsett. He would later grow up to become David Clayton-Thomas. His father was a Canadian who met his piano-playing mother ‘over there’ when she went to entertain troops in a hospital in London. According to Larry LeBlanc at DCT’s official website:

After the war, the family settled in Willowdale, a suburb of Toronto. From the beginning David and his father had a troubled relationship. By the time David was fourteen he left home, sleeping in parked cars and abandoned buildings, stealing food and clothing to survive. A tough, angry street kid with a hair-trigger temper, it wasn’t long before he ran afoul of the law and was arrested several times for vagrancy, petty theft and street brawls. He spent his teen years bouncing in and out of various jails and reformatories.

David inheirited a love for music from his mother and when a battered old guitar came into his possession, left behind by an outgoing inmate, he began to teach himself to play. Before long he was singing and playing at jailhouse concerts and for the first time in his life, he found acceptance. Now he had a dream and his life had direction… he put the reformatory years behind him and he never looked back.

While Clayton-Thomas is best known as the booming voice of Blood, Sweat and Tears, (to make a long, interesting story very short) he put in his apprenticeship with a series of bands before he made it big. He had his own band, The Shays, at 21 and in 1966 he joined a new band The Bossmen, which had a hit before breaking up. Earlier he had traveled to New York and gathered some other Toronto musicians to form his back-up group The Phoenix. They played in New York City at The Scene before getting tossed out of the country for not having the proper work papers. He kicked around Toronto for a few more years, immersing himself in the Blues and Jazz scenes and sitting in with John Lee Hooker in Yorkville, Toronto’s Hippie mecca. He followed Hooker to New York and when Hooker left for Europe, Clayton Thomas stayed on where he came to the attention of Blood, Sweat and Tears following the release of their first LP. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Back, with liner notes by DCT.
Ishan People’s 2nd LP

Surprisingly, left out of the official biography of David Clayton-Thomas, and even left off his WikiWackyWoo page, is how I came to know David. Back in the day (1976-1977) I managed a group called Ishan People, Canada’s first Roots Reggae band. David Clayton-Thomas produced both our LPs on GRT Records. David was an early proponent of Reggae, well before Bob Marley was a household word. By then Clayton-Thomas was already a singer of some renown with his work with Blood, Sweat and Tears. However, he took a small pittance as a producer to work with music and musicians he loved. Here’s a sample of David Clayton-Thoamas’ work with Ishan People.

I don’t know why this has been left off all the biographies, because this is something that David Clayton-Thomas.should take great pride in. I note he has an autobiography called, appropriately enough, Blood, Sweat and Tears, which I’ve never read. I wonder if he mentions it there. At any rate, you made me so very happy, David. Thanks for everything.



Big Up, Jamaica!!! Happy 50th!!!

Let’s face facts: Jamaica is probably the closest Christopher Columbus ever came to what was later called the United States of ‘Merka, the country he is alleged to have ‘discovered.’ And, when he landed in Jamaica in 1494, there were already people there. The Arawak and Taino peoples, who had originated in South America, had been on the island by as much as 2,500 – 5,000 years by then. By the time of Columbus’ arrival there were over 200 villages, but he claimed the island in the name of Spain anyway. The British, led by the same William Penn who founded the ‘Merkin province of Pennsylvania, forced the Spanish out in 1655, with slavery and sugar becoming the main exports, until the British abolished slavery in 1807. Then it was just sugar. Still needing a workforce, they imported Indian and Chinese workers as indentured servants. This is one of the reasons Jamaican population is such a multicultural mix and reflects its national motto: “Out of many, one people.” It’s also why so many Jamaican dishes use curry and other hot spices.

Skipping ahead a hundred and fifty years: On this date in 1962, after 4 years of being a province in the Federation of the West Indies, gained full independence and adopted its national anthem.

However, it’s not the music of the National Anthem that has spread Jamaica’s reputation around the world: It’s Reggae music. According to the WikiWackyWoo:

Many other internationally known artists were born in Jamaica including Millie Small, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Big Youth, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown, Desmond Dekker, Beres Hammond, Beenie Man, Shaggy, Grace Jones, Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Buju Banton, Sean Paul, I Wayne, Bounty Killer and many others. Band artist groups that came from Jamaica include Black Uhuru, Third World Band, Inner Circle, Chalice Reggae Band, Culture, Fab Five and Morgan Heritage. The genre jungle emerged from London’s Jamaican diaspora. The birth of hip-hop in New York City, New York also owed much to the city’s Jamaican community.

Chris Blackwell
I had the pleasure of working for Island Records Canada when it was still an independent company run by Chris Blackwell. Blackwell is one of my heroes. He didn’t create Reggae, but he took it global starting with Millie Small. Blackwell discovered the 15-year old singer and produced her single “My Boy Lollipop,” which sold over 7 million records worldwide. Then he signed Bob Marley and many other Reggae artists; launching many careers (and not just Reggae artists) onto the international stage. I met Blackwell once, on the same day I met Bob Marley, yet they were not together, nor were they even in the same country. It’s a long, complicated story that I keep promising to write and, maybe, one day I will.

Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth, is a fitting
symbol for How Jamaica Conquered The World

I was also honoured to be interviewed for my (very small) part in “How Jamaica Conquered the World,” a terrific series of podcasts which documents Jamaica’s outsized influence, when compared to the small footprint of the small island nation of just 4,244 square miles, smaller than Connecticut, the 48th largest state.

However, let’s face it: It’s the music and ganja for which Jamaica is known. Since I can’t push any ganja through my computer, I am reduced to just sharing a small sampling of the music. Here’s a Jamaican Jukebox so you can celebrate along with Jamaicans all around the world as they proudly wave the flag on their half-century anniversary.