Photo by Diane 'Livonn' Adam
This dancehall pioneer has a
sound all his own. From his humble beginnings in Kingston,
Jamaica, Levy slowly worked his way up to becoming an
In the formative years, Levy
and his cousin Everton Dacres sang as the Mighty Multitude and
recorded "My Black Girl" in 1977. A year later, the duo broke up
and Levy joined Byron Lee and the Dragonaires as a backing
vocalist. "A Long Time Since We Have No Love" was Levy’s first
solo recorded tune in 1978.
Well-known producer Henry "Junjo"
Lawes discovered Levy singing on a local sound-system and, with
New-York-based producer Hyman "Jah Life" Wright, quickly brought
Levy to Channel One where he worked with the Channel One
All-Star Band (the foundation of the soon-to-be Roots Radics),
and young engineer Scientist. Success was imminent—Levy gave a
rousing performance at Reggae Sunsplash 1980. With his fourth
single, "Collie Weed," Levy was the dancehall poster child. The
first album from the Lawes/Levy camp was "Bounty Hunter" which
showcased hits "Shine Eye Gal" and "Moonlight Lover."
Three more albums followed
that were quite successful and gave listeners a change from the
more serious Rasta-inspired lyrics that came before. Levy was
light-hearted, talented, and his voice blended well on
collaborative tracks. "Black Rose," "Money Move," "Prison Oval
Rock" were some of the singles that garnered much recognition,
and the album "Robin Hood" affirmed that Levy was the biggest
singer on the island.
International recognition came
in the mid-1980s when Levy linked up with Paul "Jah Screw" Love,
former selector for U-Roy’s King Sturgav Sound System. Together,
they did "Under Mi Sensi," which held top positions in the
reggae charts for weeks. "Murderer" soon followed for producer
Jah Life, and "Here I Come" with Jah Screw was an international
success through a deal with London Records. Levy started
appearing in UK television spots.
The success was fleeting, though, and Levy endured a two-year
slump. He continued to perform at Sunsplash as a top attraction
from 1987 until 1995; however, it was in the early 1990s when he
did the tune "She’s Mine" for Black Scorpio that he got back in
the game. His Bob Andy cover of "Too Experienced" with Jah Screw
got him signed to the Island Records subsidiary, Mango, in 1991.
"Divine" was the first Levy album released on that label to
In the United States, Levy
signed to MCA Records and released "Barrington" in 1993,
produced by Lee Jaffe, but the relationship with MCA was rocky
and Levy soon left. It was the 1994 album, "Duets" released by
Ras Records in the US (and Greensleeves in the UK as "Barrington
Levy’s DJ Counteraction") that brought groundbreaking sounds to
older tunes. He collaborated with Beenie Man on "Two Sounds" and
"Under Mi Sensi;" with Bounty Killer on "Living Dangerously;"
Spragga Benz on "Don’t Run Away;" and Cutty Ranks on "Looking My
Love." Producer Jah Screw was tuned into the jungle movement
sweeping the UK at the time, and remixed the tracks accordingly.
More recently, P.Diddy
protégé, rapper Shyne, featured Levy on the Bad Boy label track
"Bad Boyz" in 2000. They used the "Murderer" chorus behind a
hip-hop beat and it was highly successful in the urban radio
Barrington Levy has had his
fair share of career ups and downs, but he’s never lost his
talented touch and classic sound. Overall, has been an
international steady force in the dancehall and is still
unmatched in his trademark sound and stage performances. As
SNWMF audiences in 2002 can attest, you won’t want to miss
Barrington Levy live and direct!
Barrington Levy Links:
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