Thursday, August 18, 2016

Day 292 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Joe Higgs - Burning Fire

Most remembered for his tutoring of upstarts Jimmy Cliff and some guy name Bob Marley, the late Joe Higgs is considered by many to be the "Godfather of Reggae."  He cut his first tune with Roy Wilson in 1958, "Oh Manny Oh" and it was one of the first records to actually be pressed in Jamaica and sold 50,000 copies.  Higgs and Wilson went on to work with Coxsone Dodd until Roy Wilson emigrated to America in 1964.  Afterwards Higgs concentrated on his solo efforts by joining forces with Carlos Malcolm and eventually settled into the lead vocalist role with Lynn Taitt's Soul Brothers.  Around that time Higgs was credited with organizing impromptu training sessions for artists looking for an opportunity to prove themselves and he was the one that introduced the Wailers to Dodd in 1963.  By the time the 70s rolled around and reggae was in full swing Higgs continued to release singles on his own Elevation label before cutting his first album for Island in 1972.  But Island's Chris Blackwell thought the album, Life Of Contradiction, was not marketable and shelved it for three years before it finally saw the light of day on Micron Music and was met with critical acclaim.  Eventually Higgs moved to Los Angeles in 1983 after his song "So It Go," a scathing criticism of the political system in Jamaica at the time and subsequently banned from the country's airwaves, resulted in threats and harassment from some dangerous people.  A lot of Joe Higgs' songs talk about the everyday struggles of living in poverty in the ghettos of Trenchtown and reaching beyond those confines and finding freedom both physically and mentally... pretty deep stuff.  Sadly Higgs died of cancer in 1999 and in 2006 the Joe Higgs Music Award was established in his honor.  Today's track "Burning Fire" was released circa 1971 on Rupie Edwards' Success label and Supreme in the UK and while the jilted-lover subject matter of "Burning Fire" doesn't exactly fit the mold of what you'd expect of Joe Higgs, it's still pretty damn sweet!

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