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Judy Mowatt

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One-third of the I-Threes, reggae’s most influential female vocal trio, Judy Mowatt helped to turn the last recordings of Bob Marley into enduring classics. Her sensuous harmonies strengthened albums by Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Big Youth, Pablo Moses, Freddie Mcgregor, U Roy, and the Wailing Souls. Her solo recordings, including Black Woman in 1980 and Only a Woman, two years later, marked her as a powerful spokesperson for Rastafarian and feminist causes. Mowatt initially attracted attention as lead singer of a vocal trio, the Gaylettes, also known as the Gaytones, that she formed with Beryl Lawrence and Merle Clemonson in 1967. Based on such Motown groups as the Supremes, the Marvelettes, and Gladys Knight and the Pipes, the Gaylettes harmonized on a rich mix of RB and Jamaican dance music. The trio remained together until 1970 when Lawrence and Clemonson immigrated to the United States and Mowatt embarked on a solo career, recording under a series of pseudonyms including Juliann. Mowatt’s greatest break came when vocalist Marcia Griffiths asked her to sing harmony on a track that she was recording at Studio One with her duo partner Bob Andy in 1974. Rita Marley, the wife of Bob Marley and the mother of Ziggy Marley, was also hired to sing on the tune. The three woman hit it off so well that Griffiths invited Mowatt and Marley to sing the Supremes tune “Remember Me” with her when she performed that night at the House of Chen in New Kingston. The appearance was so successful that they agreed to continue performing together as the I’Threes.

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