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June-born celebs make valuable contribution to music

Published:Wednesday | June 22, 2016 | 12:00 AMRoy Black
Chris Blackwell
Stranger Cole

Some of the better known personalities in popular music celebrate birthdays in the month of June.

The English-born Jamaican-bred businessman and record producer, Chris Blackwell, is one such individual. His contribution to Jamaican music is almost limitless, having been there from the very beginning of The Jamaica Recording Industry and continuing the full cycle to the final years of Bob Marley, when he produced eight fantastic albums on his Island Record label, that rocketed Marley to the pinnacle of musical stardom. Blackwell at 22 years old, formed Island Records in Jamaica in 1959 and it became a vehicle that set in motion the ska beat, which in turn became the rock on which all successive Jamaican music genres were built. In the beginning, Blackwell recorded in Jamaica, artistes like Laurel Aitken with, Boogie in my Bones, Wilfred Jackie Edwards with, We're Gonna Love and Owen Gray with, Please Let Me Go. Edwards, Gray and the lollipop girl - Millie Small, were taken to England by Blackwell to help establish his Island Record Business when he transferred operations there in 1962. Blackwell then created history when he released and distributed the first Jamaican record on English soil - Laurel Aitken's, Little Sheila.

One of Jamaica's greatest ska pioneers - Stranger Cole, was also born in June on day number 26. A prolific songwriter and singer, Cole began his career in the pre-ska era, but came to prominence while Jamaica's Independence celebrations were in full swing in 1962 with the ska number, Ruff and Tuff. According to Cole, he had 12 number one hits, all sung in duet, with the exception of Ruff and Tuff. With Millicent Todd (Patsy), he had When I Call Your Name, Down by The Trainline, Give Me The Right and Come Back; and with Gladstone Anderson he had, Just Like a River and Pretty Cottage. With Ken Boothe he recorded World's Fair, Artibella and Uno Dos Tres. Cole also assisted Ken Boothe, The Mighty Diamonds, The Techniques and I Jahman Levi, to get into studio.

On the foreign scene, guitarist, singer, record producer, civil rights advocate and songwriter extraordinaire, Curtis Mayfield, was born on June 3, 1942. His lead vocals and songwriting skills made the Impressions group one of, if not the most successful of the 1960s. One of the most important and influential musicians behind the emergence of soul music, Mayfield's later recordings like, People Get Ready, We're a Winner and Choice of Colours, depicted his leaning towards the black freedom movement of the 1960s.

Another lead vocalist that could easily rank alongside Mayfield as a class act is Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops from Detroit Michigan. Some six years Mayfield's senior, Stubbs, was also born in the month of June. Beginning as a doo-wop singer with the group, Stubbs came to real prominence on the Motown hits, I Cant Help Myself, The Same Old Song and Reach Out I'll Be There.

Born on June 5, Ronnie Dyson was en route to become one of the greatest singers of all times, when illness aborted his career at age 40. The Welshman Tom Jones, born on June 7, was one of the highest paid TV and cabaret artistes with a dazzling array of hits. One member of the Beatles, Paul McCartney, was born on June 18, 1942, while on a very interesting note, both members of the male/female duo Shirley and Lee, dubbed 'The Sweethearts of The Blues', were also born in June.