Pioneering Jamaican artist U-Roy – CNW Network
If there was ever an artist who led a fulfilling life with an inspiring musical legacy, U-Roy, born Ewart Beckford, is one of them.
U-Roy began his music career at just 20 years old and many of his peers at the time recognized his unique gift. His first exposure to music came from his Seventh-day Adventist religious family. His mother was organist of the local church choir in St. Andrew’s parish. Interestingly, her stage name comes from a family member who had trouble pronouncing her name correctly.
In the early 1960s, U-Roy began his DJ career playing records at parties. A style began to develop in Jamaica: DJs stretched their beat between records, chatting over instrumental breaks during songs. Boasting and joking in a rhythmic chant, the DJs added to the songs they played.
– Advertising –
In 1961 U-Roy began working with a PA system called the Dickie Wong PA System. His career will see him evolve through several different systems as he tries to find his own sound. His first single, Dynamic mode way, would come in 1969 and was produced by Keith Hudson production. Following this, he released another hit single called The rightful ruler of the Earth, which was produced by the legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry. This track also featured the late reggae superstar Peter Tosh.
It was his roasting skills that ultimately helped launch him into the Jamaican limelight. Although U-Roy wasn’t the first DJ to toast, he was the first to record it, after catching the ear of record producer, John Holt, who invited U-Roy to record. his toast. The toast was one of the earliest influences on the development of rap music, and U-Roy was known as an influence on this emerging genre.
His true recognition as a master toaster came after his first two singles on Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label, Wake up the city, and Do you wear to the ballboth in 1970.
His career took off after these successes and he finally toured the UK in 1972 with artists Roy Shirley and Max Romeo proudly displaying the Jamaican flag. His 1975 album, Dread in a Babylon, was very well received in the UK. The success of the project led him to work with Tony Robinson and release a series of albums, including natty rebel, Rasta Ambassadorand Jah Son of Africa.
U-Roy used his success to inspire others to pick up the mic, and in 1978 he launched his own public address system, named Stur Gav, after his sons. Many young artists of the time, such as Charlie Chaplin and Josey Wales, benefited from the label and its mentorship.
Music by Daddy U-Roy was also featured on the album True love by Toots and the Maytals, which won a 2004 Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. His Herculean effort in promoting Jamaican music was recognized by the government in 2007 when he was awarded the Order of Distinction of Jamaica.
His style of music is also credited as one of the heavy influences in the birth of hip-hop when Jamaican disc jockey Kool Herc infamously “grilled” the same sound in the Bronx in the early 1970s.
Herc, whose first name is Clive Campbell, is widely considered the founding father of hip hop. It was at a birthday party for his sister in the Bronx on August 11, 1973, that DJ Kool Herc gave birth to what would become hip hop music. If not for U-Roy’s invention of the toast, Herc, who was born in Kingston before immigrating to the United States at the age of ten, might not have introduced the sound to the masses at the party. sister’s birthday five decades ago.
U-Roy is also considered one of the Rastafarians who pushed the Rastafarian faith around the world. All of his 24 albums have focused on some aspect of Rastafarianism.
Undoubtedly, many dancehall artists owe their careers to U-Roy. Widely regarded as The Originator, U-Roy has a permanent place in the history of reggae/dancehall and hip-hop music. Many internationally renowned dancehall DJs have recognized U-Roy as an influence on their careers, including Sean Paul and Shabba Ranks.
His death was announced on February 17, 2021. He was 78 years old.