BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

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IT had been 13 years since Muslim firebrand Malcolm X was assassinated in Harlem when a teenaged Jamaican singer named Winston McAnuff wrote a song saluting him.

The song, Malcolm X, is from Dennis Brown's 1978 album, Visions, regarded as one of the Crown Prince of Reggae's finest efforts.

McAnuff wrote the song while he was a student at Excelsior High School. He was hanging out at the studio of producer Joe Gibbs with Hugh Mundell, another budding singer, and rehearsing it when bass player Errol 'Flabba Holt' Carter heard him.

"Him run go fi (engineer) Errol Thompson an' sey, 'yuh haffi hear da song yah'," McAnuff told the Jamaica Observer.

Brown was the marquee artiste at Gibbs' studio, and was on top of his game.

But he did not get first crack at
Malcolm X. It was initially recorded by McAnuff but Gibbs was not impressed and it never got released.

Singer Earl Sixteen, whose sound was similar to Brown's, did a second version. Guitarists Earl 'Chinna' Smith and Tony Chin, drummer Carlton 'Santa' Davis and bass player George Fullwood of the Soul Syndicate Band played on the song along with keyboardist Keith Sterling.

Brown later recorded Malcolm X with the same side. The song, and album, confirmed his status as one of reggae's finest artistes.

Winston McAnuff made ripples in the early 1980s with an energetic delivery that earned him the moniker 'Electric Dread'. He recorded a ska version of Malcolm X for his Diary of The Silent Years album, but rarely performs it in concert.

Now one of the most popular reggae acts in Europe, McAnuff admits he knew little about Malcolm X the man when he wrote the song.

"Mi was 18-19 when mi write it, is like it come to mi in a vision. Dat's wha' mek it special," he said.

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