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John Holt to be honoured at Jazz Festival

Published:Sunday | January 25, 2015 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
File John Holt

Organisers of the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival have tapped some of the best roots rock reggae stalwarts to present a tribute to the late John Holt. Few singers have influenced generations of reggae acts like John Holt, the consummate lovers rock artiste. The tribute features nine acts in a pulsating reggae party on Thursday, January 29 at the Trelawny Stadium.

Holt died in October in London at age 69, leaving a remarkable catalogue of music. That legacy will be recognised on opening night of the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival on January 29. The line-up includes singers Errol Dunkley, George Nooks, Judy Mowatt, Cornell Campbell, vocal group The Tamlins and deejay Josey Wales, all backed by Lloyd Parks and We The People Band. Each artiste will dedicate part of their set to Holt. Also on Thursday night is soca artiste Oscar B with his band, Oscar B and Vibes, promising an energetic, fun-filled performance.

According to the Jazz team, Holt's enduring career and massive cache of hit songs influenced the selection of acts on opening night. "The Thursday night of the 2015 staging is a fusion of Caribbean music which includes several reggae artistes as well soca artiste Oscar B," said the show's producers, FRA Productions. "Because of the relationship with these acts and the festival to John Holt, in light of his sudden passing we chose to request each act to graciously perform a John Holt song in tribute to him."

In addition to the tributes from the above-named artistes, a special presentation is to be made to a member of Holt's family on his behalf. A performance from a family member is also expected. The show's producers also revealed that Holt was chosen to be the recipient of the special award because of the special relationship they shared with Holt while he was alive. "John Holt has been a good friend of the festival for many years. He last performed at the festival on January 26, 2012 and did an amazing job. It was therefore fitting to have him awarded on the opening night of the festival."

Holt hailed from Greenwich Town, a fishing community in Kingston with a rich music heritage. He set the pace for other singers from the area by winning the Vere Johns Opportunity Hour contest multiple times in the 1950s, while still a student at Calabar High School. He had numerous hits in the rocksteady era with harmony trio, The Paragons (On the Beach, The Tide is High and Danger in Your Eyes), before going on to an even more successful solo career.

As a solo act, Holt racked up hits such as Stick by Me, A Love I Can Feel, Ali Baba and Police in Helicopter. The latter announced Holt as a dancehall performer in 1981. John Holt inspired a generation of reggae singers who emerged during the 1970s, including Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Johnny Clarke and Freddie McGregor.

The 2015 staging of the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival - The Art of Music, is slated to take place from January 29 to January 31 at the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium. This year's festival will feature acts like the multi-Grammy-Award winning vocalist Mariah Carey, the energetic sibling group The Pointer Sisters, 2014 Billboard Chart toppers Magic!, former lead singer of Chicago and soloist Peter Cetera, R&B Soul icon Charlie Wilson, North America-based reggae band Soja, Bajan saxophonist Arturo Tappin, roots reggae group Morgan Heritage, and reggae crooner Richie 'Ska Teck' Stephens.