Ken Boothe turns 75 today
Danced off his ligaments but vocals still good
Reggae singer Ken Boothe isn’t called ‘Mr Shoes’ for nothing. Not only is it a spin on his surname, it also aligns neatly with his love for dancing. Mr Boothe never goes on stage without his dancing shoes, and he is known to really work up a sweat on every stage that he graces.
But all of that is now in the recent past.
“I have danced out my ligaments,” Boothe, who celebrates his 75th birthday today, said with more than a hint of remorse. “So, when I’m on stage now I hardly dance.”
And, on the point of birthdays, it is interesting to note that March 22 is the date that most people know as the birthday of the silver-voiced Ken Boothe, and long ago he took a decision to “work wid it”. But, in reality, Boothe has a birthday dilemma that is one for the books.
“Everybody in my family tell me that March 19 is my real birthday,” Ken Boothe shared. “But when I first went for my passport, somehow the people at the Registrar General had me being born on March 22. Then another time, I go back and see that my birth date seh March 25. So is three birthdays I have.”
The Everything I Own singer, who sees the humour in the situation, is simply grateful for reaching a milestone 75th year. He shared that in addition to him not being as sprightly as he used to be, his vision is deteriorating.
“The eyes not focusing as well as first time, but I am seeing my doctor about it. These things come with age.”
He was quick to add, however, “But God has blessed me so that my vocals are still good.”
And that is itself a great achievement, having used those vocals for close to six decades to record more than 30 albums and hundreds of singles.
His first solo tracks, his Wikipedia bio states, were recorded in 1966 after Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd had signed him to his Studio One Label. Boothe also recorded material for Phil Pratt and Sonia Pottinger the same year. He had almost immediate success with songs including The Train Is Coming (on which he was backed by the Wailers), You’re No Good and Lonely Teardrops. The following year, Boothe and Alton Ellis had a successful UK tour with the Studio One session group, the Soul Vendors. Boothe was promoted as ‘Mr Rocksteady’ by Dodd during this period, and he would also record an album of the same name.
In summing up his career in his book, My Iconic Musical Journey (as told to Karl Larmond), Ken Boothe stated, “I grew up in the infancy of this music. I am from Denham Town, but for me to see other singers or have other singers to vibe with, I had to go to Trench Town, where it all started, the cradle of reggae civilisation. Before it, there was none, and since then there has been many.”
Along his iconic musical journey, Boothe has collected many awards and accolades, and set the bar high locally and internationally as one of Jamaica’s finest vocalists, securing crossover hits that have appealed to reggae fans and mainstream audiences. In 1995, Boothe reworked a version of his 1966 hit, The Train is Coming, with recording artiste Shaggy, and that version was used in the soundtrack for the blockbuster film, Money Train. The British reggae band UB40 covered the song as a UK single, which is included on their album Labour of Love III.
Still active on the music scene, Ken Boothe shared that in September he will be off to England for a series of shows.