Grace thrillers to get JaRia award

Cecelia Campbell-Livingston

Thursday, February 13, 2014

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February is Reggae Month and the Jamaica Observer continues its daily coverage with related stories.

THE Grace Thrillers are arguably the most influential act in reggae gospel. In the 1980s, their songs such as Living Waters (Jesus Jesus) and Can't Even Walk won them a large secular following.

According to Leroy Smith, who joined the group in 1978, the 'Thrillers' always yearned for a following outside gospel circles. But he recalls opposition from traditionalists when they made the breakthrough.

"Some of the churches gave us a lot of flack to the point that they refused to embrace us," said Smith, whose distinct tone can be heard on Can't Even Walk, Amen and He Brought Me Out.

While they were shunned by some members of their own faith, Grace Thrillers received enthusiastic response from reggae and dancehall fans. Their songs were hits in dances and made the play-list of the hottest radio disc jockeys.

For Smith, Living Waters (Jesus Jesus) is special. The song was released in September, 1987 just after reggae star Peter Tosh was murdered at his home in St Andrew and had instant impact.

The Grace Thrillers — who will be honoured by the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association on Saturday — have gone through several changes in the last 10 years.

Smith, original member Sandra Brooks, Dian Barnett Stewart, Shirley Willis and Patricia Archer are now members of Thrillers United.

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