Known as the Originator, U-Roy wasn’t the first DJ, nor even the first to cut a record, but he was the first to shake the nation and he originated a style so distinctly unique that he single-handedly changed his homeland’s music scene forever. Born Ewart Beckford in
U-Roy’s musical career began in 1961 when he began deejaying at various sound systems, including a stint operating Sir Coxsone Dodd’s number two set, while King Stitt “The Ugly One” ran the main set, eventually working in the late 1960s with King Tuddy, at Duke Reid’s Sound System. Tubby was then experimenting with his equipment, in the process of inventing dub music. With U-Roy as his most prominent deejay and with access to some of the Treasure Isle Studios’ finest Rocksteady rhythms, King Tubby’s new sound became extraordinarily popular and U-Roy became a Jamaican celebrity. However, his first single was “Earth’s Rightful Ruler”, recorded with Peter Tosh for Lee Perry. He recorded
In 1975, U-Roy teamed up once again with Bunny Lee, cutting a number of songs with the producer. In 1983, the Vista Sounds label released remixes of these cuts as DJ Masterpiece, which also boasts tracks by other DJs, U-Roy amongst them, recorded for the producer. Now the reigning hero of the Jamaican DJ scene, U-Roy would come to international attention via a totally unexpected source. The American soul-lite duo Hall and Orates surprisingly enough recorded a cover of the DJ’s hit “Soldering” on their eponymous album. This prompted the Virgin label to sign him and, paired with producer Prince Tony Robinson, U-Roy recorded his debut album (Dread Inna Babylon), backed by the Skin Flesh and Bones Band. The following year’s Natty Rebel, again with Robinson at the helm, found the DJ now backed by the rootsy rhythms or Lloyd Parks and Sly Dunbar, and accompanied by a pair of singers.
U-Roy was now reaching the peak of his power. 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
In the run-up to the 1980 election, Stur-Gav fell victim to the violence that swept
U-Roy had become one of the island’s biggest stars by the early 1980s, also garnering significant acclaim in the