U Roy the DJ Originator sadly left us last week.
He was one of the great Reggae music legends in a career which spanned 5 decades of musical creativity.
Across all media there has been an outpouring of respect for him.
I will be presenting a Daddy U Roy Special on ThamesFM this coming Sunday, live from 2-6pm UK time, in which I will attempt to showcase the man, his music and his special character, charisma and personality which touched the lives of so many.
Please share this far and wide and join me as I celebrate the life of a true great and play some of his music which will live on long after all of us have gone.
A DJ innovator, Ewart - U Roy - Beckford 28/9/42 to 17/2/21, was born in Jones Town to a devout Christian family - his mother wanted him to join the choir at the Seventh Day Adventist Church she was a member of. He told her, no, he wasn't going to follow her or her beliefs. A Rasta from an early age, he believed in the oneness of people, together under Jah, and his faith underpinned his life and his music making.
He started DJing in 1961 initially for Doctor Dickie's Dynamite sound, a sound owned by Dickie Wong. In 1965 he moved to Sir George The Atomic, did some understudy Djing to Count Stitt at Coxsone's sound, before in 1968 hooking up with King Tubby and his Home Town Hi-Fi sound. Tubby had heard U Roy perform and together the two were a potent force - originating and innovating versions.
Lee Perry and Bunny Lee - producers without sound systems - saw the potential of the technically gifted Tubby and the lyrically creative U Roy - and in 1969, they, as well as Keith Hudson, enticed U Roy into their studios to cut his first records.
Released on one of Perry's first albums - Clint Eastwood, and linking up with Peter Tosh on a reworking of the Ras Michael and Sons of Negus 'Ethiopian National Anthem' - 'Earth's Rightful Ruler' displays U Roy's deeply held Rasta beliefs.
Cuttting tunes such as 'Dynamic Fashion Way' for Keith Hudson, who ended up working more closely with another DJ innovator, Dennis Alcapone; U Roy also cut 'King Of The Road', for Bunny Lee, with Slim Smith and Doreen Shafer on the flip with 'The Vow', and 'Scandal' for Lloyd Daley at Matador.
However, it was the link up with Duke Reid at Treasure Isle which really catapulted U Roy to stardom.
John Holt (then of The Paragons) persuaded Tubby, who knew Reid whilst working at Treasure Isle as a disc cutter, and U Roy to come in recreate what they had been doing at the dance - namely U Roy would chat/toast/sing over rock steady classics such as The Techniques 'You Don't Care For Me At All' and turn the soft wax into hard vinyl releases.
One of the first of these was a reworking of The Paragons 'Happy Go Lucky Girl'
The period into 1970 led to Duke Reid and U Roy taking 29 of Treasure Isles' finest songs, all produced to a high technical level by Reid, and reworking them with Duke's engineer - Byron 'Smitty' Smith - and then releasing some of them as 'Version Galore' on Treasure Isle (and its UK counterpart, Trojan).
The singles released proved so popular that at one point and for a good few weeks, U Roy was number 1, 2 and 3 in the Jamaican charts with 'Wake The Town' 'Rule The Nation' and 'Wear You To The Ball'
His signature tune with King Tubby was the version to Slim Smith's classic 'You Don't Care For Me At All' and it was this ability to rework classic rocksteady songs with an impeccable sense of timing which made him such a great success.
U Roy acknowledges Count Machuki, regarded as the first DJ and who worked at Downbeat and Prince Buster's Voice Of The People, as his inspiration. At that time DJs were often derided, and seen by producers and sound men as parasitical - 'yuh talk yuh a talk' - adding nothing to a perfectly good song that they simply chatted over.
U Roy regarded Louis Jordan (and Louis Prima) is his primary infuences, calling him 'a jive talker' citing them as singers he wished to emulate. So he then worked with what heard from them and from Count Machuki to create his own distinctive style.
It was his lyrical dexterity and his ability to ride the riddim which stood him apart and mark him down as a Dj Originator.
We wouldn't have Hip-Hop and Rap without U Roy.
In his wake were Dennis Alcapone, I Roy (shamelessly named as such by Harry Mudie) Scotty, Shorty The President, Charlie Ace and even U Roy Junior, all of whom followed in U Roy's steps.
It was Daddy U Roy who lifted the art of Djing to more than being seen as 'it just a version', as the sheer numbers of records sold demonstrated.
His releases could sell up to 70,000 - and as Jamaica was the main market then, that was no mean feat.
At the time Jamaica had more recording studios per capita then anywhere else in the world, and so the music making prowess and energy there was second to none.
Duke Reid had harnessed this, but was resistant to the rising militancy emerging in the early 70s, as Rasta conscious lyrics grew as 'cultural chatting' and the drum and the bass came to the fore and so U Roy's releases with Alvin Ranglin, Gussie Clarke, Glen Brown, Yabby You and Keith Hudson represented the next stage in U Roy's career.
U Roy's releases on the Cactus label are a signpost to where U Roy was headed next, like this on the 'Dirty Harry' riddim, produced by Glen Brown -
Duke Reid died in 1974, but U Roy grew and his reputation as the leading DJ/Sing Jay was cemented when Virgin Records cut a deal with him leading to what he regards as his most successful period.
Apparently a result of hearing a Hall and Oates cover of Stanley Beckford and the Starlites' song 'Soldering' Virgin approached and signed Ewart Beckford instead!
.The Virgin link with Prince Tony Robinson as producer led to the Dread Inna Babylon album in 1975, which was an international hit, featuring what many regard as his best song - Chalice In The Palace - 'I start selling records world wide...so Virgin, mi haffi lift mi hat to Richard Branson....a lot of people knew about me after that.'
More hit albums followed - Natty Rebel in 1976, Rasta Ambassdor in 77 and Jah Son Of Africa in 78 - all produced by Prince Tony.
He toured the UK in 76, playing to great acclaim at The Lyceum, and his last two Virgin albums were cut with Sly / Robbie and The Gladiators and Ken Boothe as backing singers raising the sounds produced to a higher level.
He reworked earlier Duke Reid hits, like this -
Into the 80s he started to work with new up and coming DJs, like Josey Wales, Charlie Chaplin and Beenie Man and launched his own sound - Stur Gav and his own labels, but recorded less, perhaps realising that 'less is more', but when he cut discs the quality was still there - with Gussie Clarke he released 'Hustling' in 1985 and appeared at JA Reggae Sunsplash for the first time in 1982, and in 1987 released 'Line Up And Come' with Tappa Zukie.
Although quieter on his output, his fire burned strong, and in 1991 he hooked with The Mad Professor: Neil 'Ariwa' Fraser, who coaxed out of 'retirement' and with whom he cut some of strongest later works.
By this time he was living in Santa Ana CA.
Albums like 'True Born African', 'Smile A While' with Sandra Cross and 'Babylon Kingdom Must Fall' and 'Hurts So Good' reworked with Susan Cadogan are amongst his stand out works from the 90s
He carried on creating new music into the 2000s, releasing sporadically, including 'Serious Matter' in 2000, and 'Old School/New Rules' on Mad Professor's Ariwa label in 2007 and Talking Roots in 2018 also with Neil Fraser.
There is also a new album - Gold: The Man Who Invented Rap due out this year.
He embraced digi-roots, working with technology and even released records with electronic wizard Francis Kevorkian, and so his adaptability and lasting talent shine through the ages, but working with live musicians remained key for him.
This from the last Ariwa release - with Aisha in fine fettle - shows U Roy had lost none of his power and majesty -
Unusually in such an industry, U Roy never made enemies, nor spoke ill of others.
He never criticised I Roy or tried to create a false rivalry to sell records or sow controversy.
Awarded the Jamaican Order Of Distinction in 2007, he was a global reggae ambassador and will be sorely missed.
Humour, humility and a strong sense of the oneness of Jah People are qualities he had in abundance.
In these most uncertain of times, you can be sure U Roy would cracking a smile and spinning some lines as he witnessed such an outpouring of plaudits for him after he passed, wondering why more of them didn't buy his records when he alive.
Equally with a smile he might say - 'I live very good with everybody. Because, if someone is going to show you love and you show them hate - you are not dealing with anything.'
Speaking to the LA Times he noted - “I just talk about unity with people. I don’t really try to put down people or anything like that. Violence is very ugly and love is very lovely."
We can all get behind that, and so join me for my Daddy U Roy Tribute on Sunday 28th February from 2-6pm UK time - catch it again here