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JOHNNY NASH: AMONG THE FIRST NON-JAMAICANS TO RECORD REGGAE MUSIC!

 

Johnny Nash

Johnny Nash

TALKING MUSIC 2

A FORT NIGHT ago, we looked at Jimmy Cliff, the singer who is credited with the introduction of reggae music to the world outside Jamaica.

I received calls from people thanking this paper for reminding them on the good old days, while I was also thankful for being reminded of one Johnny Nash who is believed to be the first non-Jamaican to record reggae music by Misheck M’hango of Mufulira who wrote:

Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff

“Hi Clever, Thanks for your article on Jimmy Cliff. I am very grateful to get the updates. For me, Jimmy Cliff has always been the king of reggae… he still rules my heart the same way him and Johnny Nash ruled the Zambian airwaves in the 70s. Bob Marley was a great musician, but to me he never got close to Jimmy Cliff as an all-round music power house. Jimmy’s magical body of work abounds in depth, rhythm, melody, creativity, innovation, lyrical poignancy – man, no reggae artist has ever moved me more.

Give me Jimmy Cliff any time day or night – I will gladly have him!”

With that email, I decided this week to share the history of Nash as compiled by Wikipedia and other sources.

Johnny Nash 1968

Johnny Nash 1968

John Lester “Johnny” Nash, Jr. was born on August 19, 1940. He is best known in the US and the rest of the world for his 1972 comeback hit, I Can See Clearly Now and also as the first non-Jamaican to record reggae music in Kingston, Jamaica.

He began as a pop singer in the 1950s while he also enjoyed success as an actor early in his career appearing in the screen version of playwright Louis S. Peterson’s Take a Giant Step which earned him a Silver Sail Award for his performance from the Locarno International Film Festival.

In 1965, Johnny Nash and colleague Danny Sims formed the JAD label in New York where they signed four brothers from Newport, Rhode Island, ages nine, 11, 15 and 16, called The Cowsills, before signing with Mercury and Philips , their first multi million selling hit single, “The Rain, The Park & Other Things”.

Besides the smash hit I Can See Clearly Now, Nash recorded several hits in Jamaica, where he travelled in early 1968, as his girlfriend had family links with local TV and radio host and novel writer Neville Willoughby.

Johnny Nash

Johnny Nash

Willoughby introduced him to a local struggling vocal group, The Wailers of which members Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh introduced him to the local scene.

Nash signed all three to an exclusive publishing and recording contract with his JAD label and financed some of their recordings, some with Byron Lee’s Dragonaires and some with other local musicians such as Jackie Jackson and Lynn Taitt.

None of the Marley and Tosh songs he produced were successful.

Only two singles were released at the time: Bend Down Low (JAD 1968) and Reggae on Broadway(Columbia, 1972), which was recorded in London in 1972 on the same sessions that produced I Can See Clearly Now.

I Can See Clearly

Now sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in November 1972. The I Can See Clearly Now album includes four original Marley compositions published by JAD: Guava Jelly,Comma CommaYou Poured Sugar On Me and the follow-up hit Stir It Up. There Are More Questions Than Answers was a third hit single taken from the album.

Nash was also active as a composer in the Swedish romance Vill så gärna tro (1971) in which he portrayed Robert. The film soundtrack, partly instrumental reggae with strings, was co-composed by Bob Marley and arranged by Fred Jordan.

Johnny Nash & Bob Marley

Johnny Nash & Bob Marley

JAD Records ceased to exist in 1971, but it was revived in 1997 by American Marley specialist Roger Steffens and French musician and producer Bruno Blum for the Complete Bob Marley & the Wailers 1967-1972 10-album series for which several of the Nash-produced Marley and Tosh tracks were mixed or remixed by Blum for release.

Nash’s biggest hits were the early reggae (rocksteady) tunes Hold Me Tight (a number five hit in the US and the UK) and Stir It Up, the latter written by Bob Marley prior to Marley’s international success.

In the UK, his biggest hit was with the song Tears On My Pillow which reached number one in the UK Singles Chart in July 1975 for one week.

JohnnyNash:ICanSeeClearlyNow

After a hit version of Sam Cooke’s Wonderful World and Let’s Go Dancing in 1979, for many years he seemed to have dropped out of sight, with the exception of a brief resurgence in the mid-1980s with the album Here Again (1986), which was preceded by the minor UK hit, Rock Me Baby; however, in May 2006 he was singing again at SugarHill Recording Studios and at Tierra Studios in his native Houston.

Working with SugarHill chief engineer Andy Bradley and Tierra Studios’ grammy-winning Randy Miller, he began the work of transferring analogue tapes of his songs from the 1970s and 1980s to Pro Tools digital format.

Nash sang the opening theme to the 1960s Trans-Lux cartoon The Mighty Hercules.

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