On June 22, the Jamaican music world was rocked by the stunning suicide of singjay, Delus, who was the older brother of dancehall star, Konshens. At just the age of 35, the artiste reportedly ended a once promising career with a gunshot wound to the head; leaving his brother and the industry at large saddened and pondering aloud why a man generally regarded as a positive person would take his own life.
Like the title of his greatest song, you never known What Tomorrow May Bring and too many times in Jamaican music, there have been similar instances within the Jamaican music industry where fans were hit with this stark realization; left to wonder “What If?” when an artiste’s life was taken away while still perfecting their well-regarded craft.
As a measure of remembering the fallen who’ve made contributions, whether small or large, to the evolution of Jamaican music into a global phenomenon, here’s a list of 10 other artistes whose impact on music forever resonates after leaving us far too soon.
J Capri – With seductive vocals, strong lyrical delivery and a number of hits to her name, Jordan Phillips, more popularly known as J Capri was primed for stardom worldwide; perhaps the one to assume the mantle of dancehall’s leading diva given her myriad of talents.
Then, on one fateful night in November 2015, those dreams were forever shattered.
The singjay, known for hits such as Pull Up To Mi Bumpa, Whine and Kotch, Reverse It and Lyrics To The Song, lost control of her vehicle while driving along Barbican Road and crashed head on, cracking her skull and losing a lot of blood in the process. Though initial belief from doctors was that she had a chance of a full recovery, J Capri’s condition suddenly worsened and she died on the morning of December 4, 2015, two-and-a-half weeks before her 24th birthday. Autopsy reports later revealed the singer died as a result of a bacterial infection she picked up after being hospitalized.
An artist of her caliber being cut down in her prime was too much to beat for many, including producer, Tarik ‘Rvssian’ Johnston – who helped break her into the business, her former collaborator and friend, Charly Black and dancehall legend, Lady Saw, who got baptized and put an end to her prestigious run as ‘Queen of the Dancehall’ the day of J Capri’s funeral. The world was robbed of a sprightly talent whose best was yet to come; a talent the genre desperately needed to carry it to great heights again. Unfortunately, we’ll never know how great an impact she would have made had she still been with us
Simpleton – ‘A jus di Coca Cola Bottle shape, ah it a run de place,’ was the famous lyric from the classic single, Coca Coca Bottle Shape by Christopher ‘Simpleton’ Harrison in 1992. The St. Andrew native had a really bright future ahead of him thanks to the single as it earned international acclaim for a Dancehall genre that just began taking shape as a popular form of music. Noteworthy singles such as ¼ to 12 and Drive Me Crazy followed for the promising deejay.
But any hopes of recreating similar success to his 90s string of hits were dashed after Simpleton suffered a heart attack at just 33 years old in 2004, ending his career in its prime.
Oneil Edwards – A cherished member of universally regarded Dancehall group, Voicemail, Oneil Edwards gained fame for his smooth vocals and dance moves. Alongside, Kevin Blair and Craig Jackson, Edwards scored several hits while a part of Voicemail such as Wacky Dip, Nuh Behaviaand Ready To Party amongst several others.
On May 10, 2010, Edwards was robbed and shot several times in front of his Duhaney Park home and underwent several surgeries in an attempt to regain consciousness. However, two weeks later, Edwards was pronounced dead, leaving a major void in the highly acclaimed group whilst saddening the dancehall community which later held a vigil in his honor. Since then, Blair and Jackson have carried on Edward’s legacy by continuing to perform as they ensure his music forever lives on.
Sugar Minott – Branded as the Godfather of Dancehall, Sugar Minott continues to be revered as one of the greatest foundation acts of all time, one of the few to be a star both as a pure reggae act and a deejay.
With over 60 albums and hit such as Herbman Hustling, Good Thing Going, No Vacancy and Jah Jah Children under his belt, Sugar Minott is credited with helping to create dancehall music’s origins long before it became popular; laying vocals over original tapes from the 1960 instead of using live bands, which was the norm during that era. His label, Youthman Productions also helped pave the way for a lot of young artistes such as Tenor Saw, Tony Rebel, Junior Reid, Yami Bolo and countless others who recorded with the label.
Though his health was steadily declining, his death in July 10, 2010 – at the age of 54 – was rather unexpected considering he was still performing shows at the time. Though his cause of death was never revealed, the entertainer had been suffering from a heart condition and cancelled shows month prior to his death after complaining of chest pains.
As a founding father of post-Independence Jamaican music, Sugar Minott’s legacy carries tremendous weight and his one-of-a-kind style can never be replicated.
Jacob Miller – A unique, powerful voice that made him a legend before his time, Jacob ‘Killer’ Miller became one of reggae music’s hottest prodigies in the 1970s, with a plethora of hits such as Forward Jah Jah Children, Baby I Love You So and Tenement Yard to his credit as a solo act.
His work alongside dub-making legends, Augustus Pablo and King Tubby helped make his sound transcendent, but it was his work as the lead singer of reggae band, Inner Circle that elevated his status even further, where they recorded hits such as Everything Is Great and Stop Breaking My Heart. Going into the 1980s, Miller was poised to be one of reggae music’s grandmasters in a genre which exploded to life over the past 10 years due to the popularity of so many great young reggae acts.
We would never get to see how much greater Miller would have been as on March 23, 1980, when he was killed in a tragic accident along with one of his songs. He was only 27 years old, just barely beginning his prime, leaving a big hole in the genre.
Delroy Wilson – One of foundation Reggae’s pioneers, Delroy Wilson mastered variations of his genre from the age of 13 when he recorded several ska and rocksteady singles. Wilson’s career and rocksteady singles. Wilson’s career soared in the 70s releasing classics such as Dancing Mood, Raining from the Sky, Better Must Come and Footsteps From Another Man. Wilson’s partnership with prominent Reggae producer,Bunny Lee helped Wilson enjoy chart success in the United Kingdom while his collaboration with fellow Reggae icon, Bob Andy produced another chart-topper, Last Thing on My Mind in 1976.
However, Wilson’s soothing voice and tender lyrical touch soon faded thereafter as releases became less common in the 1980s while his health slowly deteriorated. In 1995, a year after receiving a special plaque recognizing his musical contributions, Wilson died from cirrhosis of the liver at only 46 years old. Since his death, several dub plates and covers of his singles have been released in his honor and a remix of Raining From The Sky was recently released featuring his daughter and singer/model/actress, Shana Wilson.
Dennis Brown – A prolific singer with over 75 albums to his credit, Dennis Emmanuel Brown helped set the standard for Reggae music in the 1970s and 80s. Dubbed the ‘Crown Prince of Reggae,’ by Reggae icon, Bob Marley, Brown mesmerized audiences with classics such as Promised Land, Revolution and Money in my Pocket; earning him acclaim in the United Kingdom and Canada. Brown’s singing exploits and occasional ventures into deejaying made him a legend as he teamed with fellow foundation Reggae pioneers such as Bunny Lee, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Sonia Pottinger, Brown’s consistency elevated him to legendary status before turning 30; amassing a slew of top 10 hits as well as a pair of Grammy Award nominations in 1994 and 2001 respectively.
By the late 90s, Brown’s health deteriorated after years of cocaine use; his vocals and performances suffering bit by bit as a result. Brown died in 1999 after suffering cardiac arrest at the age of 42, with an autopsy later revealing the cause of death as a collapsed lung. Over the last decade, many tributes have been paid to him, including an honorary concert in 2000, the formation of the Dennis Emanuel Brown Trust in 2001 and several remakes of his songs, most notably, Land of Promise by Reggae stalwart, Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley and American hip-hop superstar, Nas.
Peter Tosh – Renowned for several years as Bob Marley’s right-hand man whilst with the The Wailers, Peter Tosh became a superstar in his own right, writing many of Marley’s hits such as Get Up, Stand Up, No Sympathy, amongst others. After leaving Bob Marley and the Wailers in 1974, Tosh became a successful solo artiste with singles such as Legalize It, Rumours of War and Mystic Man whilst also becoming a strong voice during the turbulent political era in the 1970s.
Just months after winning a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album, Tosh, 43, was murdered during an attempted robbery at his home in Kingston. Despite having his career shut down shortly after his greatest achievement, Tosh’s contributions of music were impeccable; prompting calls by his daughter Niambe Tosh and fellow industry players to make him Jamaica’s eighth National Hero.
Garnett Silk – If there was ever a Reggae artiste who could have been next in line to become a local legend, Garnett Silk personified that sentiment. With a divine voice and smooth persona to match, Silk gained popularity with Hello Mama Africa in 1992, a debut single that topped the United Kingdom charts. His thought-provoking lyrics and conscious vibe was somewhat reminiscent of a young Bob Marley as he teamed with fellow Reggae star, Tony Rebel and iconic producer King Jammy to record a slew of hits that immediately elevated him to top-draw status including, Fill Us Up With Your Mercy and Watch Over Our Shoulders.
In 1994, Silk signed a major record deal with American label, Atlantic Records as he looked poised to capitalize on his international success. However, a major void in the future of Jamaican music was soon left when Silk died after attempting to rescue his mother from a house fire. At just 28, Reggae music lost its ‘chosen one.’
Bob Marley – Though he died in 1981 of cancer at the tender age of 36, Bob Marley may still go down in history as the greatest musician ever, in any genre. Though his over 20 number one hits and countless chart-topping albums captivated the world during his life, Marley’s shocking death somehow enhanced his legacy, most notably when the popular 1984 compilation, Legacy became Jamaican music’s most successful album, with over 25 million copies sold worldwide.
Marley’s brand, image and lyrics remain strongholds within society, not only because of his abilities as a musician but also his desire to fight and stand up for social causes which made him a revolutionary. His birthday is posthumously celebrated like a holiday across the world and with sons, Stephen and Damian Marley becoming universal successes in their own rights; the appreciation for Marley’s legacy may have its strongest impact 35 years after his passing.