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UNSUNG: TAKE IT EASY WITH HOPETON LEWIS!

In commemoration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain, the Jamaica Observer’s Entertainment section recognises 50 persons who have made significant, yet unheralded contributions to the country’s culture. Today, we feature Hopeton Lewis.

Hopeton Lewis

 

HIS name may not be up there with the great reggae singers, but Hopeton Lewis’ place in the history books was assured the day he cut a song called Take it Easy at Federal Records in Kingston.

Take it Easy was done in late 1966 with the Jets, an all-star band led by Trinidadian guitarist Lynn Taitt. Its beat was noticeably slower than ska and is recognised as the first rocksteady song.

For the next two years, rocksteady was the rage in Jamaica, producing a number of fabulous harmony groups and outstanding vocalists. The Westmoreland-born Lewis, 19 years old at the time he recorded Take it Easy, is one of its unlikely pioneers.

While he never racked up as many hits as his contemporaries, Lewis’ career cut across the board. He followed-up Take it Easy with the laid-back Sounds and Pressure, had a combination hit with deejay U Roy (Tom Drunk) and won the Festival Song Contest in 1970 with Boom Shaka Lacka.

The following year, he became lead singer for Byron Lee and the Dragonaires and scored with the lively reggae song, Grooving Out on Life. Typical of many artists who emerged in the late 1960s, Lewis gained a following in Europe through distribution of his songs by British labels like Island Records and Trojan.

Hopeton Lewis went on to make his mark in another musical field. Starting in the early 1980s, he recorded a series of gospel albums that won him fans throughout the Caribbean and North America, where he now resides.

On December 8, the 65 year-old Lewis will be honoured by the Gospel Rail Productions organisation for his contribution to Christian music. The ceremony takes place at the Full Gospel Assembly of Brooklyn in New York City.

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