The Ultimate Guide to Great Reggae - The complete story of Reggae told through its greatest songs, famous and forgotten - Michael Garnice
Michael Garnice [+]
Errol “Johnny” Osbourne was born in 1948 in the Jones Town section of Kingston and would become another in the long line of notable reggae stars who received their musical education from the Alpha Cottage School for Boys. He started his recording career in the late 1960s as a member of two vocal groups. First came The Wildcats, but they had little to show for their work other than one single in 1969, the fast-paced early reggae of ‘All I Have Is Love’. (Though they shared a name, it was a different song from Gregory Isaacs’s first hit.) Greater success was achieved as a member of The Sensations, who released two popular songs in 1969 produced by Winston Riley. ‘Come Back Darling’ straddled the rock steady of the recent past and the roots reggae soon to come. ‘Warrior’ featured a nascent roots reggae sound. Osbourne then moved to Toronto, Canada, for a period of years, working with local bands. After his return to Jamaica in the latter part of the 1970s, he would henceforth work as a solo artist, and, as was his greatest wish, he began a residency at Studio One with Coxsone Dodd. Osbourne could shape his versatile singing equally well to a variety of styles, and while his was not one of Jamaica’s virtuoso voices, it was one that was unfailingly likable. At Studio One he recorded roots, lovers’ rock, soulful reggae and began to flirt with dancehall reggae, the style that he is most associated with. As the decade turned over, so did Osbourne’s sound. His 1980 album Fally Lover, with producer Henry “Junjo” Lawes and The Roots Radics band signaled a break from Dodd and Studio One sounds. The rhythm was simplified, and the roots lyrics were left behind. Even though Junjo’s engineer Barnabas brought a dub aspect to the proceedings, the sound was clearly early dancehall. Working next with Prince Jammy, the die would be cast. Johnny Osbourne will be remembered as one of dancehall’s foundation singers, though truth be told, he was that and more.