Slim Smith, the influential singer


Friday, August 17, 2012

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In commemoration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain, the Jamaica Observer’s Entertainment section recognises 50 persons who made significant, yet unheralded, contributions to the country’s culture. This week we feature singer Keith ‘Slim’ Smith.

ONE of the many promising singers who emerged in Jamaica during the 1970s, Keith 'Slim' Smith remains among the most influential.

Whether as a member of the Techniques or Uniques, Smith's distinct tenor won many admirers among producers (Bunny Lee), his peers (Pat Kelly, Jimmy Riley) and musicologists (David Rodigan).

That's Smith you hear leading on the Techniques classic Little Did You Know. He is also in fine form on hits like Conversation and Rougher Yet. The latter was done for producer Clement 'Coxson' Dodd, but was given new life in the 1980s when Jimmy Riley's version was also a hit.

Slim Smith formed a strong bond with Lee who was establishing himself as a producer in the Greenwich Farm area of Kingston in the late 1960s. With the Uniques, he scored with Let Me Go Girl, and as a solo performer, made the charts with Everybody Needs Love.

As promising as Smith was as an artiste, he was beset by personal problems and was at one stage committed to the Bellevue asylum in east Kingston.

It was shortly after his release from Bellevue that Smith died in 1973. According to reports, he went to the home of his parents and, unable to gain entry through the main entrance, smashed his way through a glass window.

This left one of his arms severely injured and Smith bled to death. His unique sound, and songs, have endured. Conversation is one of the most covered songs in dancehall history while Home T did a version of Let Me Go Girl in the 1980s.

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