21 September 1942
Saint Andrew, Jamaica
17 February 2021 (aged 78)
U-Roy (born Ewart Beckford September 21, 1942 - died February 17, 2021) was a Jamaican musician also known as The Originator and Hugh Roy. He was born in Jones Town, Jamaica.
U-Roy's musical career began in 1961 when he began DJing at various sound systems, eventually working with King Tubby. Tubby was then experimenting with his equipment, in the process of inventing dub music. With U-Roy as his most prominent DJ, King Tubby's new sound became extraordinarily popular and U-Roy became a Jamaican celebrity. He recorded Dynamic Fashion Way, his first recording, in 1969 for Keith Hudson and then worked with almost every producer of the island: Lee Perry, Peter Tosh, Bunny Lee, Phil Pratt, Sonia Pottinger, Rupie Edwards, Alvin Ranglin and Lloyd Daley.
In 1970, Jamaican singer John Holt became enamoured of U-Roy's technique. Working with Duke Reid, U-Roy's fame grew through a series of singles, including Wake the Town and "Wear You to the Ball".
U-Roy's success continued throughout the 1970s, most famously with the album Dread in a Babylon with its iconic picture of him disappearing in a cloud of cannabis smoke while holding an enormous pipe, and a song called Chalice in the Palace, fantasising about smoking with Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace. He had become one of the island's biggest stars by the early 1980s, also garnering significant acclaim in the United Kingdom. His latest album is 2000's Serious Matter.
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