Steely and Clevie: Dancehall's dynamic duo

My Jamaican 55

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
Observer senior writer

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

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This is the 22nd in our daily series highlighting 55 Jamaicans who broke down barriers and helped put the country on the world stage. Each day, one personality will be featured, culminating Independence Day, August 6.

IF Wayne Smith and Tenor Saw were the giant artistes of digital dancehall, Steely and Clevie were its production geniuses.

No producers had as much impact on the genre's evolution than the dynamic duo who ruled the roost from the late 1980s throughout the 1990s. They commandeered hit songs by every dancehall artiste of note.

It was Smith's game-changing song, Under Mi Sleng Teng, that inspired them to go digital in the mid-1980s at the studios of Lloyd “King Jammy's” James. There, they worked on a number of hit songs before formally launching as Steely and Clevie.

The early hits included Sorry by Foxy Brown, Ram Dance Hall by Tiger, Singing Melody's Shower Me With Your Love, Murder Dem by Ninja Man, Caan Dun by Shabba Ranks, and Cocoa Tea's Come Back Sonia.

Later came Trailer Load and Ting A Ling from Shabba Ranks, When by Tiger, Mama (Baby Wayne), Double Trouble (Beres Hammond), Love Of A Lifetime (Junior Tucker), Love Is The Answer (Garnet Silk), Call The Hearse (Bushman), I'm Still In Love With You (Sean Paul and Sasha), and No No No by Dawn Penn.

I'm Still In Love With You and No No No represented their love for rocksteady music from the 1960s. Both became hit songs in the United States; the latter, first done in 1967, dramatically revived Penn's career and earned her a contract with a major US label.

They had promising careers prior to Steely and Clevie. Wycliffe “Steely” Johnson was a keyboardist with the hot Roots Radics Band, while Cleveland “Clevie” Browne is a member of the respected Browne musical family and played drums with the In Crowd band.

A double compact disc retrospective on their work, Steely and Clevie: Digital Revolution, was released by VP Records in 2011. It contains 42 songs they worked on between 1989 and 2003.

Steely died from a heart attack, at age 47, in September 2009 in New York City.

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