U-ROY , the influential reggae artist who specialised in the art of toasting and whose style became a key precursor in the early development of hip-hop, has died at the age of 78.
The singer and producer died in his native Jamaica on Wednesday after a long illness, Loop Jamaica reported.
“We are very sad to announce that pioneering DJ who revolutionised the sound of Jamaican music in the early 1970s — Ewat Beckford aka U-Roy has passed away at the age of 78 yesterday in Jamaica,” Trojan Records tweeted.
Dub producer and Ariwa label founder Mad Professor wrote on Facebook, “What can I say? A very sad moment of transition for the man who inspired Ariwa. Without him, there would be no Ariwa. From I was 15 when I heard Version Galore I wanted to work with U-Roy. And I finally got the chance in 1991 when we met in LA (Los Angeles). This is one of the highlights of Ariwa. We last spoke two weeks ago, and he was quite frail, but quite quiet. As we mourn the loss, we have the memories of this amazing talent. We have the stories. Without him there would be no dancehall, no hip-hop, no rap, no Afrobeat.”
BBC reggae D David Rodigan tweeted, “RIP Daddy U-Roy the iconic toaster who changed the paradigm of Jamaican music when he voiced the Version Galore album … I was always in awe of him; the tone of voice, the cadence, the lyrical shimmering and riddim riding made him ‘the soul adventurer’.”
Born Ewart Beckford in Kingston, Jamaica, U-Roy — whose nickname came from a younger relative who struggled to saw “Ewart” — spent the 1960s under the tutelage of numerous veteran sound systems — Dickie Wong’s, Coxsone Dodd’s and King Tubby’s — before linking up with Paragons singer John Holt and producer Duke Reid in 1970.
Together, U-Roy released his singles Wake the Town and Rule the Nation, with the musician “toasting” — a seamless blend of talking and singing — over a rocksteady riddim beat. The singles became hits in Jamaica and beyond, with the tracks helping to foster the country’s dancehall genre.
Beyond that, U-Roy’s toasting became a major influence on the hip-hop music that would emerge over the next decade.
In 2004, U-Roy was among the artists to feature on Toots and the Maytals’ Grammy-winning all-star album True Love. Beckford received the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government for his contribution to music in 2007. — Rolling Stone.