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- Ewart Beckford OD (21 September 1942 – 17 February 2021), known by the stage name U-Roy, was a Jamaican vocalist and pioneer of toasting. U-Roy is noted for a melodic style of toasting applied with a highly developed sense of timing.
- Ewart Beckford was born in Jones Town, Saint Andrew Parish, Kingston, Jamaica, on 21 September 1942. He was raised within a religious and musical family; his mother was an organist for the choir at a local Seventh-day Adventist church.
- The sobriquet U-Roy originated from a younger member of his family who found it difficult to pronounce his first name.
- Beckford attended Denham Town High School in Kingston.
- Inspired by Count Matchuki he started his professional career as a DJ in 1961 on Dickie Wong’s sound system (originally called Doctor Dickies later changed to Dickies Dynamic) moving later to the Sir George the Atomic sound system. Beckford then worked on Sir Coxsone Dodd’s sound system where he ran the number two set while King Stitt “The Ugly One” ran the main set.
- In 1970, Jamaican singer John Holt (lead vocalist of the Paragons) heard Beckford toasting over a Duke Reid track at a dance. Holt told Reid about the performance and on his recommendation, Reid asked Beckford to come and see him and an informal recording deal was arranged. Beckford’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.
- Beckford was the first toaster to popularize the form through a series of successful releases on the Duke Reid label gaining a wider audience for toasting. This approach to production and the remixing of previously recorded tracks with a new vocal influenced the early hip-hop pioneers.
- Beckford’s album Dread in a Babylon was released in the US, Europe, and Jamaica by Virgin Records in 1975. The album achieved significant sales in the UK which was due in part to the ongoing expansion of the Virgin label and stores.
- Beckford started his own sound system in 1978, which he named Stur Gav after his sons. The sound system would launch the careers of a younger generation of toasters and singers including Ranking Joe, Jah Screw, Charlie Chaplin, and Josey Wales.
- Beckford 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 / 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.
- Beckford was awarded the Order of Distinction in 2007 by the Jamaican government for his contribution to music.
- Beckford’s death was confirmed on 17 February 2021 when his partner, Marcia Smikle, told the Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner. Trojan Records was also informed about his death. As of 19 February, no cause of death has been made public.
(This and more information was found at the link here.)
Blessings in abundance!