Photo by Sista Irie
Tall, dreadlocked Junior Kelly is
a devout Rastafarian on a serious musical mission which is
manifested through the quality of his contemplative lyrics, the
diversity of his substantial subject matter and his
inspirational delivery. Born on 23rd. of September 1969 in
Kingston 13, Junior was raised in nearby Spanish town.
Throughout his childhood, he was surrounded by music, as his
grandfather and father both played the banjo, his mother sang in
the Church and his oldest brother Jim was a popular Deejay
[rapper] with the Killamanjaro Sound.
Growing up, Junior recalls there was always a sense of comfort
and security within the family; Despite their poor economic
status they were rich in other ways. “If it's soup today, we're
happy, if it's crackers tomorrow, we're still happy” relates
Junior, “ ... because we knew we had each other to lean on.”
The family was plummeted into depression with the murder of
Junior's oldest brother Jim. A part time caterer, Jim was the
family's principal breadwinner and a role model for Junior ; Jim
regularly practiced his lyrical toasts in the family living
room, greatly influencing the career path of his youngest
After Jim's death, to help support his family Junior followed
Sound systems all over the island just for the opportunity to
demonstrate his vocal and lyrical talents. He also began
auditioning for several of the Producers comprising Kingston 's
crowded music circuit, attempting to record songs. Adhering to
his principled Rastafarian lifestyle, he refused to compromise
his lyrical content by writing lewd lyrics or songs
Junior's career pace accelerated
in late 1995 with appearances at major Jamaican stage shows
including Reggae Sunsplash and Sting as well as shows in several
northeastern American cities. While in America , he also
recorded two songs, “Hungry Days” and “Good Tidings” for Willie
Carson's Front Page label. He returned to Jamaica to concentrate
on his song writing and met Michael Stanford of M Rush Records
for whom he recorded several singles including “Black Woman” and
“If Love So Nice”.
“If love So Nice” took a detour through Europe along its route
to the top of the Jamaican charts, a position which it securely
held for 15 weeks, making it the longest charting number one
tune on the island for the year 2000.
'“If love so Nice”, one of, if not the most impressive reggae
song, impacted upon Jamaica with a force not experienced since
hurricane Gilbert, posing a question every man and woman has
asked at least once in a lifetime: “If love so nice, tell me why
it hurt so bad?” Utilizing the forceful bass line played by
Aston “Familyman” Barrett on Bob Marley's timeless tune “Stir It
Up” gave “If Love So Nice” a familiar underpinning even though
the vocalist Junior Kelly, delivering classic Jamaican blend of
precision deejay timing and lovers rock crooning, was unknown to
most Reggae fans.
Despite his seemingly sudden rise
to success, Junior Kelly, also the writer of “If Love So Nice”,
has been assiduously toiling in the music industry since 1985.
“Some say this is a lucky break, I say no, it's a result of hard
work” explains the affable sing-jay Kelly who cut his first
single “Over Her Body” in 1985 for Neco Records. “Some say that
culture in the music is a dying art form but it's not. You have
artists like myself who try to uplift the nation with words you
can live by, there's just less attention given to us by radio
Despite the attention “If Love So Nice” has deservingly
received, Junior Kelly is more than a one hit wonder ; A listen
to his albums ”Rise” and “Juvenile”, not to mention his VP
Records debut album of the same name “If love so nice” more than
supports this claim. They all demonstrate the diversity of his
song writing expertise and continue along the same positive
In 2004 the album entitled “Smile” features a much more mature
Junior Kelly. He preaches messages of love on tracks such as
“Never Let You Down”, “Sinking Feeling”, and “Baby Can We Meet”;
Black consciousness on the hit track “Black Am I”; Social
Commentary on tracks such as “Running From The Law”, “Do Dem
Something” and “Youth Dem Scared”. The title track “Smile” he
says, is for all those persons who experience hardships and
stumbling blocks on a daily basis, “put your faith and trust in
the Most High and just Smile, never let them see you cry,
because things will soon get better”.
His sixth album, released
September 13th 2005 on VP Records is entitled “Tough Life”.
Kelly preaches messages of love on tracks such as “Receive”,
which is currently experiencing heavy rotation on the Jamaican
air waves and high chart positions. “Receive” went to No1 on the
Jamaican singles chart in August 2005. Kelly states the
importantness that “Rasta Should Be Deeper” on another massive
hit from the album produced by the Swedish crew Hi-Score Music.
He also delivers biting social commentary on tracks such as
“Sick Of Dem Story”, and “Jah Give Me Strength” and on the title
track “Tough Life”.
Just as humbly as he has dealt
with his international chart success, Junior Kelly views the
power of his live performance as a means to a far greater end.
“When I am in a crowd, it could only be twenty people and if
some say I love your performance that fills me up right in my
heart”. Junior Kelly has not only been busy in the Recording
Studio, but also on the stage spreading his message far and
wide. He has been touring Europe and the Caribbean extensively
and has cemented his name among the list of top Reggae
Ambassadors who are here to stay.
There is a message in the music and in the wrong hands it can be
very dangerous, in the right hands, it can be very medicinal and
And in the hands of Junior Kelly
it's a correctly prescribed dosage of musical healing!
The Music Of