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September 28, 2012

In commemoration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain, the Jamaica Observer’s Entertainment section recognises 50 persons who made significant, yet unheralded, contributions to the country’s culture. This week we feature singer Stanley Beckford.

BECKFORD… singlehandedly kept the mento beat in the spotlight during the 1970s when just about every Jamaican artiste was into roots reggae

MANY Festival Song Contest winners are usually worried about being typecast as ‘Festival’ performers. That was never the case with Stanley Beckford, arguably its most popular entrant.

Beckford won the annual event on four occasions, two times with the Turbines, once with the Astronauts and as a solo act. His winning songs were Come Sing With Me (1980), Dem a fe Squirm (1986), Dem a Pollute (1994) and Fi wi Island a Boom which took the top prize in 2000.

But Beckford was more than just a Festival staple. He singlehandedly kept the mento beat in the spotlight during the 1970s when just about every Jamaican artist was into roots reggae.

One of his non-Festival songs was the saucy Soldering, a not-fit-for-airplay hit that was covered by none other than American blue-eyed soul duo, Hall and Oates.

Broom Weed and Leave my Kisiloo were other Stanley Beckford songs that made local charts. They helped keep mento in the mainstream at a time when the sound was in danger of being relegated to the porches of north coast hotels.

Stanley Beckford

He set the pace for similar acts like the Jolly Boys out of Portland who were a mini sensation last year with their well-received album, Great Expectation.

Stanley’s favourite stage, however, was the pre-Independence celebration known as Festival. He lit up the contest even in years he finished out of the frame with his nimble dance moves and amusing mannerisms.

He died in 2007 from cancer at age 65.

— Howard Campbell


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