U-Roy, pioneering Jamaican reggae artist, dies aged 78

U-Roy, pioneering Jamaican reggae artist, dies aged 78

Pioneering Jamaican reggae artist U-Roy has died at the age of 78, his partner has confirmed.

The musician, whose real name is Ewart Beckford, had been undergoing surgery at a hospital in Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston.

U-Roy, who is credited with popularising the vocal style known as “toasting”, died late on Wednesday.

Among those to pay tribute were Grammy award-winning artist Shaggy and British singer-songwriter Ghostpoet.

U-Roy’s partner, Marcia Smikle, told local news website The Gleaner that the artist had been receiving treatment for diabetes and high blood pressure, and also suffered with kidney problems.

She said he had been in and out of hospital and most recently had undergone an operation to address an issue of internal bleeding.

“It was successful, and the bleeding stopped,” Ms Smikle said, but the doctors had to take him back into the operating theatre at the University Hospital of the West Indies on Wednesday and he later died.

Following news of U-Roy’s death, tributes began to pour in, with Jamaican reggae artist Shaggy describing him in an Instagram post as a “hero” and a “true legend” who was “a master at his craft”.

British musician Ghostpoet, who was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2011 and 2015, tweeted “RIP”.

BBC Radio 1Xtra reggae music presenter David Rodigan described U-Roy as “the iconic toaster who changed the paradigm of Jamaican music”.

Former BBC Radio DJ Rob Da Bank said he was a “toaster extraordinaire”.

Born in Jones Town, Kingston, in September 1942, U-Roy’s professional music career began as a DJ in 1961.

It was at this point that he adopted “toasting”, a rhythmical vocal style performed over reggae and dance tracks that then became popular in Jamaica in the later 1960s and 70s.

U-Roy recorded a number of singles and albums, with some of his most popular being Dread in a Babylon in 1975 and Natty Rebel in 1976.

Years later, in 2004, he featured on the Jamaican group Toots and the Maytals’ Grammy award-winning True Love album.

In 2007, the Jamaican government awarded him the Order of Distinction for his contribution to music.

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