SEVERAL big artistes bid a final farewell to the entertainment scene in 2014. Among them, influential lover’s rock singer John Holt, reggae singer Bunny Rugs, National Dance Theatre Company co-founder Eddy Thomas, and dancehall singer Wayne Smith whose sensational Sleng Teng heralded a new day in reggae.
Holt died from cancer in October in London at age 69. His career spanned over 50 years and flourished in the rocksteady, roots-reggae genre and what became known as lover’s rock.
Songs like Man Next Door, Stick by Me, A Love I Can Feel and Police in Helicopter, appealed to different generations of fans. The Tide is High, a song he did in the 1960s with The Paragons, became an international hit for pop groups Blondie and Atomic Kitten.
Best known for the hit songs Now that We Found Love, an O’Jays original, and Try Jah Love, Third World’s lead singer Bunny Rugs was loved by fans worldwide.The Manchester-born Rugs (given name is William Clarke) replaced ‘Prilly’ Hamiltion as frontman for the reggae outfit in 1976. He lost his battle with cancer and died at his Florida home on February 2. He was 65.
Smith died in February at age 48. He is best remembered for Sleng Teng, an ode to the ‘good weed’ driven by a slick, uptempo keyboard ‘riddim’. It introduced electronic beats to Jamaican producers and triggered numerous copycat productions.
Along with Rex Nettleford, Eddy Thomas established the formidable National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) in 1962.
He was known for the creation of memorable dance works including Legend of Lovers’ Leap and Kingston 13.
Prior to the NDTC, Thomas co-created the Roots and Rhythms Show with Nettleford in celebration of the nation’s thrust toward Independence. His Eddy Thomas Dance Workshop, which was formed years prior, acted as the foremost training ground for the development of legendary Jamaican artists.
The 82-year-old died at his Montego Bay home on April 10.
Phillip Smart, reggae music producer whose Long Island studio was the hub for reggae/dancehall in the tri-state area, died in February.
Chad Young, CEO of reggae radio station IRIE FM and ZIP 103 FM, died at his St Ann home in February after a brief illness. He was 27.
NOEL ‘SOWELL’ BAILEY
Noel ‘Sowell’ Bailey, former guitarist with the Roots Radics Band, died in July.
UZZIAH ‘STICKY’ THOMPSON
Uzziah ‘Sticky’ Thompson, percussionist extraordinaire, died in August.
JOSEPH ‘POWDA’ BENNETT
Joseph ‘Powda’ Bennett, a member of the Portland-based mento band The Jolly Boys, died in August.
CEBERT ‘JACKIE’ BERNARD
Cebert ‘Jackie’ Bernard, lead singer of the Kingstonians (known for the hit songs Winey Winey and Singer Man) died in August.
Hopeton Lewis, whose Take it Easy is considered the first rocksteady song, also died in September.
So did Filmore Alvaranga, percussionist and founding member of the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari. Played on the Ffolkes Brothers’ groundbreaking song, Oh Carolina.
LINCOLN ‘STYLE’ SCOTT
Lincoln ‘Style’ Scott, original drummer with the Roots Radics Band, passed away in October.
JAMES ‘BIM BIM’ MCKENZIE
James ‘Bim Bim’ McKenzie, close associate of producer Clement ‘Coxson’ Dodd, also died in October.
CLEVE ‘CHU CHU’ WARREN
Cleve ‘Chu Chu’ Warren, popular roots-play actor reportedly died from a drug overdose in November. He was 36.
Graeme Goodall, master Australian engineer and co-founder of Island Records who worked on numerous ska and rocksteady hits, died in December.
Barbara Jones, who made a name as a balladeer in the 1970s with Walk Through This World With Me before going gospel, also died in December.