Musical pioneer Roy Shirley has died . . .
August 10, 2008 9:16 PM Subscribe
Roy Shirley has died. Who's Roy Shirley, you ask? He was one of Jamaica's best-kept musical secrets. When Jamaica's summer of 1967 proved too hot to dance to frenetic ska sounds, Shirley came to the rescue with what's widely acknowledged as the first "rocksteady" hit, the Joe Gibbs-produced Hold Them. Despite scant commercial success, he played at the Apollo Theatre and Madison Square Garden in the early 70s, as well as baptizing the legendary King Tubby's studio with his brilliant boxing tribute, Joe Razor. In 1973, Shirley moved to the UK and deeper obscurity, but there's a happy ending. A Trojan Records double CD of his classic work was released a couple of years ago, and a bunch of reggae fanatics arranged for him to play the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival early this summer. Shirley's health was poor, but he put on a fine show and won over a host of new fans. (Scroll down a bit to see his final performance.) Recently, a clip of Shirley at his musical peak started making the rounds. (Scroll to 1:14 to see part of his oddly James Brown-inspired live performances.) Shirley's vocals, lyrics and overall sensibility may be an acquired taste. It's a shame the world mostly missed him in his time. His odd humor, crazy talent and good-nature made him unique.
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