I-Roy: The Mighty Poet

I-Roy

I-Roy: The Mighty Poet

Roy Samuel Reid, better known as I-Roy, was born on June 28th, 1944 in Jamaica’s Saint Thomas parish. He was one of the most influential reggae artists of the 1970s. His lyrics were often humorous, incorporating elements of songs and nursery rhymes.

He graduated from Dinthill Technical College before starting a job as a government accountant. His musical career started in 1968 via his “Soul Bunny” sound system, which he ran on wednesday afternoons. His popularity prompted him to quit his job and move to Spanish Town, where he went on to work for several sound systems. Eventually he was discovered by producer Harry Mudie, who saw great potential and gave him the name “I-Roy”.

In 1971, I-Roy recorded 4 tunes for Mudie on the Moodisc label: “Drifter”, “Heart Don’t Leap”, “Let Me Tell You Boy” and “Musical Pleasure”, which would all become hits. In the following years he recorded more tunes with some of Jamaica’s top producers, such as Lloyd Campbell, Lloyd Daley, Bunny Striker Lee, Keith Hudson, Derrick Harriott, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Glen Brown, Clive Chin, Rupie Edwards and Byron Lee. But some of his most prolific hits came from his partnership with producer Augustus Clarke, who also produced I-Roy’s 1973 debut album “Presenting I. Roy”.

I-Roy continued to release a lot of tunes and albums through the 1970’s. He was not only popular in Jamaica, but abroad as well. He moved to the UK to promote his music but returned home soon after. The shift from reggae to dancehall in the 1980s had its impact on the popularity of his music. This led to recurring health problems, financial problems and even periods of homelessness during the later period of his life. In the early 1990s he started building his own studio in Spanish Town, but it was never completed.

I-Roy, or “The Mighty Poet” as dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson would call him, sadly died from heart failure on November 27th, 1999, aged only 55.

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