The man who many older Dancehall and Reggae music fans consider the true king of Dancehall Music has died. U-Roy or Daddy U-Roy as he was affectionately called died yesterday. He was 78 years old.
If it is debatable whether or not U-Roy is the king of dancehall music, what is not debatable is the fact that he was the pioneer, innovator and creator of the genre. He is the one who created the deejay from DJ. Not only was he the first Jamaican deejay but some consider him the first rapper, even though what he was doing was called toasting at the time.
Born Ewart Beckford in Jones Town, Jamaica, in the 1940s, U-Roy was given his nickname by a younger family member who couldn’t pronounce Ewart. He started his musical career as a deejay—in the Jamaican parlance, a vocalist over reggae and dancehall music—and earned a reputation as the King of Toasters (and later as the Originator). In 1970, John Holt of ska group the Paragons pushed for Beckford to be signed. His subsequent hits “Wake the Town” and “Wear You to the Ball” established him as one of Jamaica’s most popular musical exports.
By the late 1970s, he reached international fame for records like 1976’s Natty Rebel and 1978’s Jah Son of Africa. He created his own sound system—a collective of deejays, engineers, and toasters—called Stur Gav that helped launch the careers of his protegées Charli Chaplin, Josey Wales, and Brigadier Jerry. He continued releasing music into the late 2010s, culminating with 2019’s Rebel in Styylle.