Sierra Nevada World Music Festival 1998

Earl Zero

Earl Zero was born in the poorer Greenwich Town area of Kingston, Jamaica. By the mid 1970s, when Zero began to meet fellow neighbor-musicians such as guitar luminary Earl "Chinna" Smith, Greenwich Town was an area ripe for the flowering of Rasta, and Zero's songs, such as "Shackles and Chains," among others, began to reflect this way of life.

In 1975, a young Earl Anthony Johnson was dying for a chance to record a song he had written entitled "None Shall Escape the Judgment." The same year, Z discovered local producer Edward "Bunny" Lee, through bassist and friend George "Fully" Fullwood. After weeks of pestering "Striker," as the producer was also known, Lee finally gave in and recorded Zero with his song, utilizing Earl "Chinna" Smith, Carlton "Santa" Davis on drums, and Aston "Family Man" Barrett on bass. Z was thrilled, but Striker had other ideas--he saw the song as a perfect vehicle for his protege/star Johnny Clarke. When Clarke's version hit the streets, it was an instant hit.

Undaunted by this experience, Zero continued to compose more songs of wisdom, protest, and awareness, and linked up with fellow Greenwich Townians, producers Bertram Brown and Errol "Don" Mais. In 1976 "Home Sweet Home" was released on the Roots Tradition label, followed by "Please Officer" and "City of the Wicked" which appeared on the Freedom Sounds outlet. He also recorded for producer Tommy Cowan. In 1978, Zero appeared in a film which featured the Soul Syndicate (along with with Augustus Pablo and other contributors) entitled Word, Sound and Power.

By 1979, Zero was good friends with the Soul Syndicate, which was Chinna and Santa, and "Fully" Fullwood on bass, and Tony Chin on rhythm guitar. The Soul Syndicate had already recorded an album for Epiphany Records two years previously (Harvest Uptown, Famine Downtown) and Zero was introduced to Epiphany Records' owner/producer Warren Smith. After listening some of Zero's recordings, Smith was immediately enthusiastic about recording "Z." The Soul Syndicate were already familiar with Zero's work and Visions of Love emerged effortlessly from the high-quality roots studio Channel One. The album's release allowed Zero to build a strong fan base in Northern California.

While Zero's catalog of work might not be vast, his songwriting talents were noticed by Jimmy Cliff, who covered "Please Officer." In Visions of Love, Zero's songs singing melds perfectly with the Syndicate's musical "concept," and Visions is a classic, dread work which has withstood the test of time.



 
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