A Reggae legend says goodbye


joe-gibbs-jamaica.jpgLast week one of Reggae luminaries struck his final note making it a sad day for his many fans all over the world.

Joe Gibbs died of heart attack at University Hospital of the West Indies from a heart attack at age 65.

He leaves behind a rich legacy that not only impacted Jamaica, but indeed the whole world.

Born in Montego Bay in 1943, Gibbs left Jamaica to train as an engineer in the US. After some time spent in the United States as an electronic engineer, Gibbs went back to Kingston, and opened a repair TV shop at 32 Beeston Street where he soon started to sell records. The fast growth of the local music scene encouraged him to be more involved in the business, and in 1967 he started to record some artists in the back of his shop with a two-track tape machine and the already established Lee Perry who had just ended his association with Clement "Coxsone" Dodd. In 1968, with the help of Bunny Lee, he launched his Amalgamated label, and had his first success with one of the earliest rock steady tunes, Roy Shirley's "Hold Them".

After Perry went away to set his own label "Upsetters", Gibbs enrolled the young Winston "Niney" Holness who helped maintain Gibbs' production on the top of the charts. During the rock steady period until 1970, he met success with numerous hits by vocalists like The Pioneers, Errol Dunkley, and Ken Parker, and worked with backing bands like Lynn Taitt and the Jets (including the organist Ansel Collins, and horns players Tommy McCook, Johnny "Dizzy" Moore, Bobby Ellis and Vin Gordon), or The Hippy Boys (featuring the Barrett brothers as the rhythm section).

He switched to the reggae sound with his first international success "Love of the Common People" by Nicky Thomas (#9 in the UK Singles Chart in the summer of 1970). He kept on recording artists like The Ethiopians, Delroy Wilson, and The Heptones (the two volumes of his singles' compilations The Heptones and Friends were bestsellers in Jamaica). During this period he launched three new labels; Jogib, Shock, and Pressure Beat and also opened his New York Record Mart at 11 South Parade.

In 1972, after having moved his studio in the Duhaney Park district, he set up a new one at 20 North Parade and started to work with the sound engineer Errol Thompson, who used to be at Randy's Studio. Together, known as "The Mighty Two", along with his studio band known as The Professionals (that includes bassist Robbie Shakespeare, drummer Sly Dunbar and guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith) they produced hundreds of singles including the hits "Money In My Pocket" by Dennis Brown and "Ah So We Stay" by Big Youth and "Eviction" by Black Uhuru. The duo worked on over 100 Jamaican number one hits.

In 1975, he set up his new 16-track studio and record pressing plant at 24 Retirement Crescent and kept on producing Jamaican artists under numerous label names (Crazy Joe, Reflections, Belmont, Town & Country) meeting success again not only in roots reggae, rockers and lovers rock styles with Dennis Brown, Jacob Miller, Sylford Walker, The Mighty Diamonds, Gregory Isaacs, Prince Alla or Junior Byles but also with instrumental and dub cuts (African Dub series).

The 1977 Culture album Two Sevens Clash is probably Gibbs' most internationally acclaimed production, with a major impact on the punk band The Clash. Other successful artists produced by the Mighty Two during the end of the seventies include Marcia Aitken, Althea & Donna, John Holt, Barrington Levy, Cornell Campbell, Dean Fraser, Delroy Wilson, Beres Hammond, Ranking Joe, Prince Jazzbo, Prince Mohammed, Dillinger, Trinity, Prince Far I, Clint Eastwood, I-Roy and Kojak & Liza.

In the 1980s, Gibbs had an international hit with J.C. Lodge's hit of "Someone Loves You Honey". He did not pay any royalties to the song's writer, Charley Pride, who sued and won. Unable to pay the huge settlement ordered by the Court, Gibbs went out of business. In 1993, he went back on the Jamaican scene, reissuing works from his catalogue on the Rocky One label his son Carl had started from Miami, Florida a few years before, and teaming again with Errol Thompson to produce some new music.

Joe Gibbs is gone but his musical works will live on forever.