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20.10.2014

John Holt Legend

Craig

Craig Shenton

Not many people out of the reggae loop would of heard of John Holt. He was one of the pioneering acts and sounds amongst early Rocksteady, Ska and Reggae music, helping to shape music in the form that we know it today. Born in Kingston Jamaica, Holt’s early life could resemble that of any of Jamaica’s famous recording artists. Born into a slum that constantly faced oppression, gang and political violence from the JLP and the PNP. John Holt led a normal life in Jamaica’s roughest city. This was until he started recording records for Duke Reid at Treasure Isle records. Holt had success both as a solo artist and with the band “The Paragons” (led by John Holt), writing some fantastic songs! Unfortunately many of us know his material as, made famous by somebody else and usually someone more marketable. Holt wrote “The Tide Is High” (later made famous by Blondie and Atomic Kitten) as well as songs such as “Man Next Door” Covered by UB40, Massive Attack and Dennis Brown.

Unlike Bob Marley and the Wailers, Holt did not have the weight of Island Record and Chris Blackwell on his shoulders, demanding more guitar solos and key changes to make the music more marketable to “White Audiences”. Holt chose to work with producers such as, Bunny Lee and Duke Reid. This led to him recording the biggest selling Jamaican record of 1972 “Stick by me”.

Holt went on to record many famous reggae and ska anthems including; Police in Helicopter, Mr. Bojangles and My Heart Is Gone. Holt collaborated along the way with artists such as Prince Buster! Another who’s most fantastic of work has been made famous by others, Buster is an artist responsible for influencing British Ska to such a point that half Madness and The Specials back catalogue are songs that Buster and Holt wrote.

Reggae and especially Jamaican Ska and Rocksteady are not on the top of most people’s influences on modern pop music. However if you scratch beneath the surface you will find a whole multitude of cover songs, influences, back beats and bass riffs all that can be traced back to great men such as John Holt.

John Holt

Born: 11 July 1947

Died: 19th October 2014

Rest In Peace

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