KINGSTON, Jamaica (CelebrityAccess) — Ewart “U-Roy” Beckford, the Jamaican reggae vocalist, known for his impeccable sense of timing and who helped to popularize the art form of toasting, died in Kingston on February 17th. He was 78.
U-Roy’s partner, Marcia Smikle, announced his passing in the Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner, stating that he had been receiving treatment for diabetes and high blood pressure, and also suffered with kidney problems.
Smikle also said he had recently undergone surgery to address internal bleeding.
Born in Jones Town, Kingston, in September 1942, Beckford launched a career as a DJ in 1961 and began to include elements of toasting, a rhythmical vocal style where an MC or DJ chants over a dance beat. The style rose to prominence in Jamaica in the 1960s and 1970s, and bled over into styles such as dancehall, rocksteady, and UK speed garage, and by some accounts, American rap music.
In the early years of his career, Beckford worked with Sir Coxsone Dodd’s sound system and later joined King Tubby’s Hometown Hi-Fi sound system.
He released his first single “Dynamic Fashion Way” in 1969 via Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label, and later signed to Virgin Records to bring his music to international audiences.
In the mid-1970s, he launched his own sound system, Stur Gav, which platformed a new generation of toasters, including Ranking Joe, Brigadier Jerry, Charlie Chaplin and Shabba Ranks.
In 2004, Beckford collaborated with Toots and the Maytals on the album True Love, which won a Grammy Award in 2004 for Best Reggae Album.
Beckford was awarded the Order of Distinction in 2007 by the Jamaican government for his contribution to music.