Gold medal performers

By Howard Campbell Observer senior writer

Monday, October 26, 2015

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Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare have played countless recording sessions since their first in 1976 on John Holt's Winter World of Love.

Bunny Lee produced Holt's cover of the Engelbert Humperdinck hit. Since then, the revered drum-and-bass team's patented rhythms have appeared on numerous hit songs and albums by Bob Dylan, Grace Jones, Black Uhuru, Peter Tosh, Joe Cocker, Sinead O'Connor and No Doubt.

Last week, the Institute Of Jamaica (IOJ) announced that they will receive the Musgrave Gold Medal for 'distinguished eminence' in music.

Dunbar, 63, said he and 62-year-old Shakespeare feel "really good as musicians for it. There was a time when wi didn't think we'd get anything...wi jus' wanted to put food on the table for our children."

Of all the projects they worked on, Dunbar considers Dylan's 1983 Infidels album as special.

"Wi grew up listening to Bob Dylan an' songs like Like A Rolling Stone. We were in Nassau working with Grace Jones when wi got the call that him want us to work on his album. Wi couldn't believe it."

Infidels was co-produced by Dylan and guitarist Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. It was a comeback of sorts for the folk/rock legend; Infidels was a winner with critics and fans, selling over 500,000 units.

The genesis of the Sly and Robbie tandem can be traced to their time in Tosh's Word, Sound and Power band in the late 1970s when they were touring to promote his Equal Rights album.

"Dem days wi use to share room an' we'd talk 'bout where wi can tek the music. That's how the creative aspect began taking shape," Dunbar recalled.

Black Uhuru was the first major project for their Taxi label. They produced the roots trio's biggest hits including Shine Eye Gal, General Penitentiary, Sponji Reggae and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

They were also at the helm for Anthem, the Black Uhuru set that won the first Grammy for Best Reggae Recording (later Best Reggae Album) in 1985. Sly and Robbie also won a Best Reggae Album Grammy in 1999 for Friends.

Eight persons will receive Musgrave medals this year. Harvard University professor Orlando Patterson is also a gold medal recipient.

The other awardees will receive silver medals. They are singer Myrna Hague-Bradshaw, creative choreographer Patricia 'Patsy' Ricketts, poet Dr Ralph Thompson, photographer Donnette Ingrid Zacca, architect Errol Charles Alberga Jr, and physician Anthony Vendryes.

The ceremony is scheduled for October 28 in the IOJ's Lecture Hall at Tower Street, downtown Kingston.

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