Tag Archives: Jamaican music

RIP Bunny Lee (1941 – 2020)

Bunny Lee was a Jamaican record producer and one of the major forces in the Jamaican music industry, producing hits throughout his long career.

“Wet Dream”

His song “Wet Dream”, interpreted by Max Romeo, became popular in 1968 despite being banned on the BBC; and Eric Donaldson’s “Cherry Oh Baby” would be covered by the Rolling Stones.

“My Conversation”

Lee also produced the perennial riddim “My Conversation”.

‘If Deejay Was Your Trade’ (1994)

The compilation ‘If Deejay Was Your Trade’ (1994), which was the debut release of the reggae compilation label Blood and Fire, consists of a selection of his productions from the period 1974-1977.

The documentary ‘I Am The Gorgon – Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee and the Roots of Reggae’ is in full on YouTube.

RIP Toots ‘Maytal’ Hibbert (1942 – 2020)

“Funky Kingston” (1972)

Toots Hibbert was a Jamaican singer and songwriter, leader for the band Toots & the Maytals. He is best-known for such songs as “54-46 That’s My Number” (1968), “Pressure Drop” (1970) and “Funky Kingston” (1972).

Hibbert was one of the first artists to use the word “reggae” in 1968’s “Do the Reggay”.

RIP Millie “My Boy Lollipop” Small (1947 – 2020)

Millie Small was the singer of “My Boy Lollipop” (1964), her only hit.

She was the first Jamaican artist to break through to an international audience.

Did this mean international recognition for ska and reggae?

Well, not exactly, “My Boy Lollipop” was considered a novelty song rather than ska or reggae.

Thus reggae’s invasion into the mainstream actually only began that same year in the United Kingdom with songs such as “Al Capone” (1964) and “Guns of Navarone” (1964).

But in the United States, the wait was for 1969 with “The Israelites” (1968) to give reggae international repute and recognition.

RIP Irving ‘calypso’ Burgie (1924 – 2019)

 Jamaica – Mento 1951-1958 (2009)

Irving Burgie was an American songwriter best-known for two songs: “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell“, both made famous by Harry Belafonte on his album Calypso.

I’m interested in the era when traditional folk songs (which are per definition authorless) were appropriated by Western musicians and turned into pop hits.

This seems to also have been the case with the Belafonte songs Irving Burgie “wrote” .

In the words of Sholem Stein:

Harry Belafonte, a New Yorker of Jamaican origin, released wildly popular “calypso” hit records in the period 1956-1958. In reality “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell” – both featured on Calypso (1956) and both written by Irving Burgie – were mento songs sold as calypso. Previously recorded Jamaican versions of these now classic “calypso” hits can be heard on the compilation Jamaica – Mento 1951-1958 (2009) [above].

Louise Bennett-Coverley gave Harry Belafonte the foundation for his 1956 hit “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” by telling him about the Jamaican folk song “Hill and Gully Rider” (the name also given as “Day Dah Light”).”

“Jamaica Farewell” was compiled and modified from many folk pieces to make a new song. Burgie acknowledged his use of the tune of another mento, “Iron Bar””.–Sholem Stein

I remember vividly how one night my parents went to a Harry Belafonte concert in Antwerp and lodged me and my brother in a fancy hotel which had a pool that was partly inside and partly outside the hotel. It was winter and the pool outside was steaming into the open air. This must have been before the first oil crisis. (update: I called my mother, it was the Sofitel, located on the Boomsesteenweg 15, Aartselaar)

RIP Prince Jazzbo (1951 – 2013)

Prince Jazzbo toasting on “Croaking Lizard

Linval Roy Carter (3 September 1951–11 September 2013), better known as Prince Jazzbo, was a Jamaican reggae and dancehall deejay and producer.

Croaking Lizard” is a musical composition by Lee Perry, published on the 1976 Super Ape album.

On this recording, Prince Jazzbo is heard chanting (toasting is what the Jamaicans call it) over the “Chase the Devil” riddim. The lyrics are largely nonsensical. Shards of texts I recognize are “on the river bank” and what I believe is “it’s slippery out there.”

Super Ape is a seminal recording in the history of 20th century music.