Reports have emerged that hugely influential reggae and dancehall icon U-Roy, real name Ewart Beckford, has passed away at the age of 78. His longtime collaborator Neil Fraser, aka Mad Professor, confirmed the news shortly after it began to circulate on social media.
Born in Jones Town, Jamaica, in 1942, U-Roy — often called Daddy U-Roy or The Originator — was one an early ‘deejay’ and widely credited as the pioneer of a style known as “toasting”, a rhythmic way of speaking over a reggae record. His groundbreaking style would go on to inspire and inform everything from modern dancehall to hip-hop, grime and more.
He was also breathakingly prolific, recording at least 20 albums and an unfathomable number of 45″ singles. One of his key contributions, as many are noting today, was 1970’s Version Galore with John Holt, one of the first ever reggae studio albums that changed the way music was recorded and released on the Caribbean island.
Shortly after the news broke, David Rodigan took to his socials to mourn the Jamaican icon, describing Beckford as an “iconic toaster who changed the paradigm of Jamaican music when he voiced the Version Galore album. I was always in awe of him; the tone of voice, the cadence, the lyrical shimmering and riddim riding made him ‘the soul adventurer’.”
In a statement posted to their Instagram, Trojan Records added that before Version Galore, “there really wasn’t much of an album market for Jamaican artists. ‘Version Galore’ changed that situation overnight by selling in the kind of quantities that the three chart-topping 45s that preceded it had done. If the success of ‘Wake The Town’, ‘This Station Rule The Nation’ and ‘Wear You To The Ball’ hadn’t already made U Roy the number one artist in Jamaica, this album would (and did!) confirm his star status absolutely.”