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UNSUNG: HENRY “JUNGO” LAWES!

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 producer Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes.

LAWES… dominated the 1980s with his Volcano label and sound system

 

THE arguments about who is reggae’s greatest producer are as old as the hills. Clement Dodd, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Arthur ‘Duke’ Reid are usually the focus of these squabbles.

When it comes to style, however, no producer compares to Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes.

For much of the 1980s, Lawes’ Volcano label and sound system dominated Jamaica’s music scene with a star-studded camp that included a brash Albino named Yellowman and a teenaged singer Barrington Levy.

Lawes’ most lethal weapon was the Roots Radics band which played on numerous Volcano hit songs including Yellowman’s I’m Getting Married, Looking My Love by Levy and Lost My Sonia by Cocoa Tea.

But the Waterhouse-born Lawes will also be remembered for his flamboyance. His custom-made suits, felt hats and flashy cars set the tone for fashion trends that remain a big part of dancehall music.

Importantly, Lawes established a formidable link with the British independent label, Greensleeves Records, which became a massive source of Jamaican dancehall for sound systems and record stores, especially in London.

Tragically, Lawes’ lifestyle proved his undoing. He served prison time in the United States and was murdered gangland- style in London in 1999.

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