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 Fred Locks—-

JAMAICAN music was not short on social anthems during the heady 1970’s. Singer Fred Locks’ Black Star Liner was one of the most potent.

The song was recorded in 1975, which makes it 40 years old.

It was Fred Locks’ powerful ode to Marcus Garvey’s seven-fleet shipping line which had mass repatriation to Africa as its ultimate goal.

Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey

The song is a Fred Locks signature, though he admits his finest moment has been something of an Achilles heel.

“Some people will sey tings like the ‘one song artist’ but yuh have other people who sey, ‘yuh haffi sing Black Star Liner’,” he told the Jamaica Observer. “Funny, ’cause mi go Europe an’ do all 18 song an’ the people know every one.”

Interestingly, Fred Locks (born Stafford Elliott) wrote Black Star Liner in 1968 while he was a member of The Lyrics, which also included Danny Campbell and Albert Tomlinson.


The harmony trio recorded several rocksteady ballads for producer Clement Dodd at Studio One. But by the dawn of the 1970s they had split up and Elliott became Fred Locks after ‘sighting up’ Rastafari.

Co-produced by Twelve Tribes of Israel members Michael ‘Jah Mix’ Mowatt and Hugh ‘Boothie’ Boothe, Black Star Liner was released 35 years after Garvey’s death.

Recorded at Randys studio in downtown Kingston, it featured guitarists Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith, Jerome ‘Jah Jerry’ Haynes and Howard Roberts, bassist Earl ‘Bagga’ Walker, drummer Benbow Creary, and keyboardist Pablove Black.

It was not until three months later when artist manager/producer Tommy Cowan heard it, that Black Star Liner took off.

Tommy Cowan

Tommy Cowan

“Him mek two call to Don Topping at RJR an’ ET (Errol Thompson) at JBC (Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation), an’ in no time it enter the charts,” Fred Locks recalled in a 2012 interview.

The singer, who turns 65 in June, recently recorded a version of Black Star Liner with Sizzla. He is scheduled to perform at the Irace Reggae Jam show in Kingston on May 30.

–By Howard Campbell

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