The parish of St Ann has a right royal roster of musical credentials, from Tanya Stephens attending Ochi Primary to... did someone mention the word ‘Bob’?
One of the great Roots Reggae producers of the 1970s, and the only major not based in Kingston, Lawrence Lindo aka Jack Ruby was instrumental in the success of artists such as The Heptones, Justin Hinds and Burning Spear, as well as running Ochi’s Jack Ruby Hi-Fi Power sound system.
A chapter of the eternally-watchable 1977 docu-movie ‘Roots Rock Reggae’ presents a casual Jack Ruby, Red Stripe in hand, auditioning singers outside in his yard. ‘Rockers’, an essential Jamaican movie released the following year, features several scenes of Ruby at work and play, and offers a fascinating glimpse of a pre-plaza Ocho Rios.
He left this earth in April 1989 but his influence continues: a plaza, a restaurant and a large colourful mural at the top of James Avenue all bear his name — and there is a call to rename the street “Jack Ruby Avenue” in his honour. He is the grandfather of successful rapper/reggae fusion artist Sean Kingston.
CHECK OUT: For some of the dark “haunting atmospheres” and vital roots Ruby sounds, we highly recommend the various artists compilations, Jack Ruby Presents The Black Foundation and Black Slavery Days (The Sound of St Ann's) from which this page borrows its title.
“The music Bob created was so magnificent it has transcended all styles and now lives in its own space.” — David Rodigan
What more can we add to a life story as well documented as any in popular culture. Briefly then, Robert Nesta Marley popped out into the world with a rimshot on a Nine Mile farm on 6 February, 1945. At the age of 12, he moved with his mum to [a government yard in] Trenchtown, Kingston.
His earliest recordings from February 1962 included the sprightly and uplifting ‘Judge Not’ and ‘One Cup of Coffee’. The following year a teenage band was formed, negotiating several name changes till settling on The Wailers. A single ‘Simmer Down’ was a Jamaican ‘smash’ reaching #1 in February 1964; the debut album The Wailing Wailers followed in 1965. After signing in 1972 to the intrepid and influential Chris Blackwell’s Island label, the band despite a major personnel change grew over the next few years into a global sensation, with Bob himself rising to rarefied adulation as the champion of Reggae and emissary of the Rastafari faith.
A life cut tragically short, Marley made his solo exodus into the heavenly homeland on 12 May, 1981. The shrine at Nine Mile, his former boyhood home and subsequent mausoleum, is a fitting focal point to the undying reverence for His Royal Bobness.
CHECK OUT: If you are reading this, you probably rate the squillion-selling Legend compilation already, but all of the 1972-1980 Island/Tuff Gong albums are required listening, the following in particular in our opinion: Catch A Fire from 1973 (find the deluxe with the bonus untampered early version), Live! from 1975 captures a ‘you are there’ Lyceum vibe, and Exodus from 1977, voted Time magazine’s ‘Best Album of the 20th Century’. Then work backwards to 1962.
Winston Rodney to his mum, Reggae legend Burning Spear was born in St Ann’s Bay on 1 March, 1945. The Burning Spears was the name of his band, he adopted the name for himself after the band split in 1976. Highly revered and influential Roots Reggae with a deep Rastafari message, international breakthrough came with the 1975 Jack Ruby produced Marcus Garvey and Man in The Hills albums on Island Records.
He has won two Grammy Awards for ‘Best Reggae Album’, Calling Rastafari in 2000 and 2009’s Jah Is Real, and nominated for an astonishing further twelve. In October 2007 Burning Spear was awarded the Order of Distinction in the Jamaican honours system.
CHECK OUT: Good kick-off points are the Marcus Garvey album and its laid-back follow-up, Man In The Hills. The earthy and spacey Living Dub Volumes 1 & 2 — which are Dub versions of Social Living and the spiritual Hail HIM — will put dumplings in your stew.
Born on 7 May, 1942 in Steer Town. Hinds began his musical career in Ocho Rios, singing around the bars and on the beaches for a spell before moving down to Kingston where, with his prolific vocal trio of old school friends The Dominoes, he worked his way up to become one of the most popular Jamaican artists of the 1960s.
Justin Hinds & The Dominoes scored with the 1963 Ska anthem ‘Carry Go Bring Come’ for Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle, notching up a further seventy sides between 1964-1966 for the label. As Ska merged into Rocksteady more hits followed including ‘The Higher the Monkey Climbs’, a Jamaican #1. The band's success spilled over into the 1970s. A few excellent albums, notably the 1976 Jack Ruby production, Jezebel, were released sporadically up until 1992. At the close of a musical career spanning four decades, Justin Hinds died in Steer Town in March 2005 at the age of 62.
CHECK OUT: For an overview of Hinds’ Treasure Isle era of Ska through Rocksteady to the early Reggae years, get hold of the Carry Go Bring Come: Anthology ‘64-‘74. The aforesaid Jezebel reunited the Dominoes in 1976 on an album of Ruby quality spawning several singles. Travel With Love, another Dominoes regrouping from 1984, is rootsy and often achingly beautiful.
Pre-eminent Dancehall artist of his generation, Shabba Ranks was born Rexton Gordon on 17 January, 1966 at Sturgetown.
Distinctive by his gruff vocal style, his main period of global success kicked off in the late 1980s and continued through the ‘90s; since then he has only released the odd single and the Shabba Ranks & Friends compilation album.
Singer of the ‘Lovers’ Rock’ style of Reggae, Romain Virgo (pictured) was born in Stepney on 24 January, 1990.
Rising from performing initially at the local church to fame via TV talent shows, he released his first album RV in 2010. By the time of his third album Lovesick in 2018, he had achieved international success and his first #1 on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart.