Black Uhuru

Black Uhuru Biography

Formed: 1974 in Kingston, Jamaica

One of the most popular reggae acts ever and the first one to win a Grammy. They were the most successful act from Jamaica besides Bob Marley and had an enormous cross-over success during the early to mid 80s, mainly because of two facts: first: the fantastic rhythm section - consisting of the ever present drum & bass twins Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, who were actually a part of Black Uhuru during their most successful period; second: their sound was different - more accessible to Rock fans with uncompromising lyrics and their militant appearance. Their live shows were especially enigmatic.

Black Uhuru was founded in the late 70s by the then already established singers Rudolph "Garth" Dennis, Don Carlos and Duckie Simpson. After a while Michael Rose, who sang in hotels on the north coast of Jamaica for tourists, joined the group and the trio was complete. It was Michael Rose's rock stone gruff voice and his phrasing of syllables and consonants that made the sound of this vocal trio so eminently different from the multitude of other reggae trios. They had a local hit with the Prince Jammy produced ‘I Love King Selassie’. ‘Puma’ Jones, who was raised in New York, heard this song and fell in love with it immediately. So she joined the group in time for their first internationally distributed album ‘Sinsemillia’ (Island Records 1980) on TAXI - Productions/Jamaica. This album was a huge success already and some of these songs are still played in bars, coffee shops and Hippie hang-outs worldwide. The strength of songs like ‘World Is Africa’, ‘Push Push’, ‘Every Dreadlocks’, ‘Sinsemillia’ and ‘Fire’ make them timeless anthems. They toured and recorded with Michael Rose as Lead vocalist and further released the powerful ‘Red’ album with more militant songs like ‘Youth Of Eglington’ or ‘Sponjie Reggae’ (maybe their best song); a live album from 1981 called ‘Tear It Up’; the still solid ‘Chill Out’; and their 1983 album ‘Anthem’, that was repackaged and re-mixed for the international market with a different cover in 1984 (for no apparent reason). Quarrels about the status of Duckie Simpson (the Founder) and Michael Rose (the voice of Black Uhuru) lead to internal problems and Michael Rose left. Junior Reid, another singer from the Waterhouse neighbourhood in Kingston, replaced him. This lead to a rejuvenated sound and another highlight in the career of Black Uhuru. They even had a top ten hit with ‘The Great Train Robbery’ in the UK and other European countries, their first song written and sung by Junior Reid. The albums ‘Brutal’ and ‘Positive’ with good, advanced dub albums to follow were both very successful and their tours were (nearly) as successful as before. The same problem occurred again. Junior Reid was the voice and wrote the hit songs, while Duckie Simpson stayed out of focus, his songs were no hits - but he was the head of Black Uhuru. So Junior Reid left as well to pursue a successful solo career. To make matters worse ‘Puma’ Jones died of cancer in 1990. So Duckie Simpson contacted his old buddy Don Carlos, who was still a respected and always recording and releasing Solo artist with a nice voice and talent for song writing. Still this duo didn't have the potential to perform the anthems that made Black Uhuru the giants they were, so they recruited young singers who looked good and had the ability to reproduce the songs from both Michael Rose and even Ju .... Click here to read the full bio on DISCOGS.


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