By Jethro Ibileke
Legendary Jamaican reggae singer, vocalist and dance hall innovator, U-Roy, is dead.
He was pronounced dead on Wednesday, at the age of 78, causing so much heartbreak and agony to the beloved family.
Popularly known as the Originator, Ewart Beckford, Hugh Roy, the Jamaican popularized the vocal technique of toasting
He was known for performing conversational, rhythmic speech over a reggae or dancehall beat.
His longtime collaborator, Neil Fraser, aka Ariwa Sounds studio’s Mad Professor, confirmed the news of his death.
Throughout his career, U-Roy released some 20 records and contributed to Toots and Maytals’ Grammy-winning album True Love.
He was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government for his influence on the country’s music scene.
Born Ewart Beckford in Jones Town, Jamaica, in the 1940s, U-Roy was given his nickname by a younger family member who couldn’t pronounce Ewart.
He started his musical career as a deejay in the Jamaican parlance, a vocalist over reggae and dancehall music, and earned a reputation as the King of Toasters (and later as the Originator).
In 1970, John Holt of SKA group, the Paragon, pushed for Beckford to be signed.
His subsequent hits, Wake the Town and Wear You to the Ball, established him as one of Jamaica’s most popular musical exports.
By the late 1970s, he reached international fame for records like Natty Rebel (1976) and Jah Son of Africa (1978).
He created his own sound system, called Stur Gav, a collective of deejays, engineers, and toasters, that helped launch the careers of his protegées Charli Chaplin, Josey Wales, and Brigadier Jerry.
The late U Roy continued releasing music into the late 2010s, culminating with the hit Rebel in Styylle, released in 2019.