U-Roy, the pioneering reggae and dancehall artist, has died at the age of 78.
The artist, MC and veteran toaster passed away last night (February 17) at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica following surgery earlier this week, The Gleaner reports.
U-Roy, who was born Ewart Beckford in Jones Town, Jamaica in 1942 and was also known as Daddy U-Roy or The Originator, was renowned as a pioneer of the toasting vocal style in reggae and dancehall, and was a key figure in the popular development of Jamaican music in the 1970s.
After being spotted toasting by the late John Holt while DJing at a sound system party in 1970, U-Roy recorded the singles ‘Wake The Town’, ‘Rule The Nation’ and ‘Wear You To The Ball’ – all of which enjoyed great commercial success in Jamaica and beyond while also popularising the toasting style.
Among U-Roy’s most-loved albums were 1975’s ‘Dread In A Babylon’, ‘Natty Rebel’ (1976), ‘Rasta Ambassador’ (1977) and ‘Jah Son of Africa’ (1978).
He launched his own sound system, Stur Gav, in 1978, which in turn helped launch the music careers of the likes of Josey Wales, Charlie Chaplin and Ranking Joe.
U-Roy was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government in 2007 for his contribution to music. His final album, ‘Talking Roots’, was released in 2018.
Tributes to U-Roy have been pouring in on social media since his passing was confirmed last night, with the likes of Ghostpoet, Shaggy, Rob Da Bank and the DJ David Rodigan all sharing some words on U-Roy’s legacy.
A new U-Roy album, ‘Gold: The Man Who Invented Rap’, is set for release in the summer. The record, which was recorded in 2019, features the likes of The Clash‘s Mick Jones, Santigold, Shaggy, Ziggy Marley, Zak Starkey and many others.