By Howard Campbell—
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 Winston ‘Niney’ Holness.
HOLNESS… produced a string of hits for reggae’s crown prince Dennis Brown
IN 1973, teenaged singer Dennis Brown erupted with a string of hit songs that announced him as a bona fide star.
Cassandra, Africa, No More Shall I Roam and Westbound Train are still tops on the ‘D Brown’ hit parade. All were produced by Winston ‘Niney’ Holness.
Brown, in a 1997 interview with the Jamaica Observer, acknowledged his time with Holness.
“I would sey Niney is the best producer I work wid. He was more like a big brother, wi had a lotta good times making music,” said Brown.
Holness (given name George Boswell) started out as a singer in the 1960s, and had a big British hit with Blood and Fire in 1970.
He gave up his singing career during that period and launched into production with the Observer label.
Two of his early hits were Silver Words by Ken Boothe and Westbound Train. Using the Soul Syndicate band, Holness ingeniously based Cassandra, No More Shall I Roam and Westbound Train on the patterns of soul singer Al Green’s Love and Happiness.
They hit big, so did other Brown/Holness collaborations such as Wolf and Leopards, which is the singer’s most commercially successful album.
Holness continued churning out hit songs after Brown moved on to producer Joe Gibbs. One of his biggest songs of the 1980s was Roots With Quality.
His catalogue, which includes early songs by Junior Delgado and Michael Rose, is among the most impressive in roots-reggae.