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John Holt

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On an island renowned for its superb vocalists and composers, John Holt still stands head and shoulders above the rest as one of Jamaica’s sweetest singers and enduring songwriters. He has voiced and penned so many of the country’s classics that in a way, Holt has defined the island’s sound. Born in the Greenwich Farm area of Kingston, Jamaica, on July 11, 1947, the young Holt took his first steps into the music business via the talent show circuit. Talent shows have always had a massive popularity in Jamaica and the top ones were initially broadcast live on radio and later on television. Many of the island’s greatest artists (Gregory Isaacs amongst them) made their first appearances in talent shows, and it has proved an excellent training ground for young hopefuls.

In 1958, the 12-year-old Holt entered his first contest, run by promoter Joseph Verejohn. Over the next four years, the youngster became a staple of these shows, notching up a record-breaking 28 titles. His dulcet tones were soon familiar to a much larger audience, as a number of these contests were broadcasts of Radio Jamaica. For his final victory in 1962, Holt performed Solomon Burke’s “Just Out of Reach.” The talented teen was quickly snapped up by producer Leslie Kong, who recorded Holt’s debut single, “Forever I’ll Stay”/”I Cried a Tear.” From there, the youngster began working with producer Clive Chin, debuting the partnership with “Rum Bumper,” a duet with Alton Ellis.

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