Ewart Beckford OD, known by the stage name U-Roy and affectionately called Daddy U-Roy, has passed away. The 78 year old pioneer of ‘toasting’ died on Wednesday, February 17th. It is being reported that he has been ill for sometime although sources would not say exactly what his ailments were.
Several top-tier reggae and dancehall celebrities have taken to social media to send condolences to his family and friends, as well as to share their musicial stories of him.
ABOUT DADDY U-ROY
Inspired by Count Matchuki he started his professional career as a DJ in 1961 on Dickie Wong’s sound system (originally called Doctor Dickies later changed to Dickies Dynamic) moving later to the Sir George the Atomic sound system. Beckford then worked on Sir Coxsone Dodd’s sound system where he ran the number two set while King Stitt “The Ugly One” ran the main set. This was followed by a period with Sir Percy before he moved to King Tubby’s Hometown Hi-Fi sound system. Beckford’s first single “Dynamic Fashion Way” (1969) was a Keith Hudson production. It was followed by the Lee “Scratch” Perry production “Earth’s Rightful Ruler” with Peter Tosh.
In 1970, Jamaican singer John Holt (lead vocalist of the Paragons) heard Beckford toasting over a Duke Reid track at a dance. Holt told Reid about the performance and on his recommendation Reid asked Beckford to come and see him and an informal recording deal was arranged. Beckford‘s first two singles released on Duke Reid‘s Treasure Isle label, “Wake the Town” (1970) and “Wear You to the Ball” (1970), were Jamaican hits and established his reputation as one of Jamaica’s most popular toasters. Beckford then went on to work with other major producers on the island including Lee “Scratch” Perry, Bunny Lee, Phil Pratt, Sonia Pottinger, Rupie Edwards, Alvin Ranglin and Lloyd Daley. 1971 saw the release of Beckford‘s DJ version of The Paragons‘ “The Tide Is High.”Beckford first toured the UK in 1972 with the artists Roy Shirley and Max Romeo. The tour was organized by Rita and Benny King; the owners of R & B Records based in Stamford Hill, London.
In 1975, the album Dread in a Babylon was released in the US, Europe and Jamaica by Virgin Records. The album achieved significant sales in the UK which was due in part to the ongoing expansion of the Virgin label and stores. The track “Runaway Girl” from the album was released as a single in Europe that same year. The success of Dread in a Babylon led to a series of Tony Robinson produced albums: Natty Rebel (1976), Rasta Ambassador (1977) and Jah Son of Africa (1978). Beckford‘s international popularity led to the album Natty Rebel being released in 1976 on Virgins’ imprint Front Line label in Nigeria as well as in France on Virgin and Polydor.
In 1978 Beckford started his own sound system which he named Stur Gav after his sons; the sound system would launch the careers of a younger generation of toasters and singers including Ranking Joe, Jah Screw, Charlie Chaplin and Josey Wales. In 1980 the pop group Blondie had a world-wide hit with the reggae track “The Tide Is High” which prompted Virgin to re-release the original Paragons‘ track from 1967 and the 1971 U-Roy version as a single that same year. His album Pray Fi Di People was released in 2012.
Beckford was featured on the album True Love by Toots and the Maytals, which won the Grammy Award in 2004 for Best Reggae Album, and showcased many notable musicians including Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Trey Anastasio, Gwen Stefani / No Doubt, Ben Harper, Bonnie Raitt, Manu Chao, The Roots, Ryan Adams, Keith Richards, Toots Hibbert, Paul Douglas, Jackie Jackson, Ken Boothe, and The Skatalites.
In 2007 Beckford was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government for his contribution to music.