Wed | Dec 1, 2021

Godfather and trailblazer Daddy U-Roy has died

Published:Thursday | February 18, 2021 | 8:34 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer -
Daddy U-Roy died last night at the University Hospital of the West Indies. He was 79.

Jamaican vocalist and pioneer of toasting, Ewart Beckford, better known to the world as Daddy U-Roy, has died, his partner Marcia Smikle confirmed to The Gleaner.

He passed away at 11:10 last night at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) after undergoing surgery there.

Born on September 20, 1941, the trailblazer, who gave every toaster, rapper and MC their career, was 79.

An emotional Smikle, who has been by the legendary toaster's side for 41 years, said that U-Roy had been ailing for some time and had been in and out of the hospital.

"He has diabetes and hypertension, but those are under control because we make sure that he takes his medication. But he also had a kidney problem and was being treated at Andrews [Hospital], and then they told us to take him to UWI for surgery because the kidney had messed up the bladder, and he was bleeding," Smikle said.

"They recommended dialysis for the kidney, but he didn't want to do that," she added.

U-Roy was admitted to the UHWI, and the surgery performed on Tuesday.

"It was successful, and the bleeding stopped. But afterwards, the doctors realised that somewhere else was blocked up, and they had to take him back to theatre on Wednesday. Him heart stopped three times, and him come back and then last night he died. Him never mek it," she told The Gleaner, between tears.

Smikle said that despite his illness, U-Roy was still active on a daily basis.

"He was still doing dubplate specials here at home for people who wanted them," she said, whispering that "Last night mi lay down and is like mi hear him a call me asking for a cup of tea".

CAREER

An original toaster from the 60s, often hailed as the Godfather of Dancehall, Daddy U-Roy was also known as The Originator and Hugh Roy.

His melodic style of toasting, applied with a highly developed sense of timing, set him in a class by himself.

U-Roy's first two singles released on Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label, Wake the Town (1970) and Wear You to the Ball (1970), were Jamaican hits and established his reputation as one of Jamaica's most popular toasters.

U-Roy then went on to work with other major producers on the island, including Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Bunny Lee, Phil Pratt, Sonia Pottinger, Rupie Edwards, Alvin Ranglin, and Lloyd Daley.

The year 1971 saw the release of Beckford's DJ version of The Paragons' The Tide Is High. Beckford first toured the UK in 1972 with the artistes Roy Shirley and Max Romeo.

In 1975, the album Dread in a Babylon was released in the United States, Europe and Jamaica by Virgin Records.

The success of Dread in a Babylon led to a series of Tony Robinson-produced albums: Natty Rebel (1976 ), Rasta Ambassador (1977), and Jah Son of Africa (1978).

Beckford's international popularity led to the album Natty Rebel being released in 1976 on Virgins' imprint Front Line label in Nigeria, as well as in France on Virgin and Polydor.

In 1980, Blondie had a world-wide hit with the reggae track The Tide Is High, which prompted Virgin to re-release the original Paragons' track from 1967 and the 1971 U-Roy version as a single that same year.

U-Roy was featured on the album True Love by Toots and the Maytals, which won the Grammy Award in 2004 for Best Reggae Album, and showcased many notable musicians including Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Trey Anastasio, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt, Ben Harper, Bonnie Raitt, Manu Chao, The Roots, Ryan Adams, Keith Richards, Toots Hibbert, Paul Douglas, Jackie Jackson, Ken Boothe, and The Skatalites.

In 2007, U-Roy was honoured by the Jamaican Government, receiving the Order of Distinction for his contribution to music.

Freddie McGregor, Shaggy and Richie Stephens are among the artistes who have paid tribute to Daddy U-Roy.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com