Jamaican musician U-Roy, who famously popularised the vocal technique of toasting, has died aged 78.
Trojan Records wrote on Twitter: “We are very sad to announce that pioneering DJ who revolutionised the sound of Jamaican music in the early Seventies – Ewat Beckford aka U Roy has passed away at the age of 78 yesterday in Jamaica. RIP U Roy, The Originator”.
U-Roy was called The Originator food helping to pioneer the style of performing conversational speech over reggae or dancehall music known as toasting. Although he was not the first toaster, he was the first to commit this vocal style on record which helped birth the phenomenon and also inspired the development of hip hop music.
The stretched out dub records made by pioneers such as King Tubby were ideally suited to give space to this vocal style.
Speaking to the LA Times about his lyrics in 1994 he said: “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. I never been to college or anything like that, but I have some common sense, and what I learn I just make the best of it, you know.”
U-Roy ran his own label called Mego-Ann, released hundreds of tracks across his career, and contributed to important records such Toots and Maytals’ GRAMMY-winning ‘True Love’ album. Among his own biggest hits are ‘Wake The Town’ and ‘Wear You to the Ball’.
He ran the Stur-Gav soundsystem which inspired a new generation of toasters to follow him in footsteps, including Shabba Ranks, Ranking Joe, Josey Wales, Brigadier Jerry and Charlie Chaplin
In 2007 he was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government for his contribution to music.
In 2019 Shabba Ranks crowned U-Roy as “di Picasso of our music” in New York.
Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Digital Features Editor, follow him on Twitter
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