The Legendary Sammy Dread
Roots & Love Reggae Night
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A voice like that - pulled from the gut yet easy, raw with centuries of suffering yet lustrous - is the reason for the world's crush on reggae culture. Shunning everything modern, anglar, and neurotic, Sammy Dread epitomizes the magical radiance of the Jamaican roots singer who delivers a visionary philosophy that yearns for a stolen past and knows that music must be both sweet and dread for people to understand.
"Roadblock," "Bad Boy Fire M-16," and "Dreadlocks Girl" are just three Sammy Dread boomshots taht define the vitality and rapture of regae's golden era in the 70's and 80's. Even if his voice were never heard from again, those tunes would be engraved forever in the memories of countless listeners. Thanks to John Shop Records, Sammy Dreadlocks is back on the mic, creating a brand new set of tracks that bring the art of roots rock to a whole new level - stripped of tired references and made relevant for today.
Though he was given the colonial name of Stewart Farquharson at birth, "they used to call me Sammy," the singer from Greenwich Town, in Kingston, JA, recalls. "I added 'Dread,' because when i started to sing, I said I have to be a Rastaman, and for me to keep the covenant, I had to dread. I born a Rasta - we all are, but we take it from certain levels."
After quitting school, Sammy found work at the Kingston Wharf, but childhood friends, guitarist Earl Chinna Smith and singer Earl Zero had heard Sammy singing over the radio, and urged him to go professional. "They told me you can sing; make a career out of it," Sammy says.
With his very first tune, '78's "African Girl," produced by Don Mayes, Sammy had a hit. A long-held dream was also fulfilled when Sammy sang backup for Sugar Minott, and Minott produced Sammy, helping to launch the younger singer as a constant reggae chart presence.
So identified became Sammy with the roots rock sound that hip hop's Fat Boys paid homage in their smash ;83 hit, "Hardcore Reggae," when the rappers call the names of Jamaican music greats: Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Sassafras, and Sammy Dread. The Boys discovered Sammy was in Brooklyn and recruited him for the rune's landmark video. Sammy earned that shout-out through a series of number ones, including "In This Time," another smash off his legendary '82 Roadblock album released by Channel One. The original, Brooklyn-based Heartbeat label released Think Constructively, while producing icon Joe Gibbs released the hits - "Dreadlocks Girl" and "My Black Princess." In ;84, Jah Life released Sammy's Mr. Music, recorded in England and yielding British hit single, "You Don't Have to be a Superstar." In '94, Rocky Gibbs, son of Joe, helmed Stronger Than Before, but failed to five the album the marketing push it deserved.
Music had kept Sammy on the move from '79, when he first left Jamaica to do a star-studded concert, also featuring Dennis Brown, Louie Lepke, Long Ranger, Tristan Palmer, and Tony Tuff, at NYC's Beacon Theater, and he decided to headquarter in Brooklyn. Over the years, music took Sammy all over the world, and he made homes in London; St. Petersburg, FA; and Houston, Texas. Today, he's back in NYC and a member of the John Shop family - a label he views as the exception to today's rule of slapdash reggae productions.
"Nowadays, they're not as creative as when we used to go to studio," Sammy ovserves. "If the producer didn't like the music, you couldn't voice. You couldn't come with the music of nowadays. it's the stupidest that becomes number one, and culture music isn't getting anywhere compared to the other styles. After a while, people just started doing the same thing over and over. I try to be original, and even when I sing over a tune, I change the lyrics and do it in my style."
A good example of that Sammy Dread cover treatment is "Sweet Darling," off his untitled John Shop Records album, which was inspired by a tune written by a lesser-known NYC-based artist named Saba. Exemplifying Sammy's gift for reinvention, it borrows the original's hook and stamps it with the inimitable Sammy Dread style.
"I got caught up in a lot of little things what wasn't right," Sammy says to explain his long absence from the recording studio. "I sit down and meditate and know I got to go back to what I love the best - straight to the music. Jr. Demus introduced me to John Shop early in 2002. They're doing the right thing, and I like that. They want to take the music to another level."
Working with ex-refugee rapper/producer, John Forte and John Shop producers, Vidal Goring, D. Dubbie, Tony Panic and Titimus, Sammy has crafted eleven stellar tracks, including "Pain Cry," a muscular comment on the current state of the world, also featuring Yami Bolo's Waterhouse-style vocals, and "Sammy Dreadlocks," a partial reprisal of "Roadblock" with new lyrics over the riddim and melody to Sugar Minott's classic, "Look in Your Eyes." Another John Shop artist, reggae diva Dawn "No No No" Penn, joins Sammy for "Hottie Hottie." Overall, the album neatly balances Rasta hymns unto the Almighty such as "Jah Jah," "A Man Must Know," and "Love We Want" - classic reminders of higher human purpose the world still needs to hear - with songs of love and romantic antics like "Ladies of the Night" and "Sweet Darling." "Strong Ganja" takes care of the requisite homage to herbal inspiration.
"I try to make my music go to a higher level, so each new song will be better and better," says Sammy of this latest set. "Once you keep in the music industry and do a lot of concerts and meet people, you see how they react. That's how you know what to sing fo them. Everybody is an artist in Jamaica, so you always have to find a tune that's above other tunes. If you don't do that, after three or four months, no one hears you. Look how long i'm in the business and it's just the love of people, my fans."