The 'Striker' and the guitarist

Entertainment

The 'Striker' and the guitarist

Monday, October 12, 2020

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VENERABLE guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith and influential producer Bunny “Striker” Lee's friendship was more than music.

It was a bond that went back to the 1950s.

“Bunny Lee used to hold mi as a baby. Is like my mother an' Striker mother an' father grow up in di same neighbourhood of Greenwich Town in Kingston 13. My father use to have a sound system called Western, an' as a youth, Bunny Lee used to operate my father sound. So, it was more of a family thing,” Smith, 65, told the Jamaica Observer.

“One of di greatest things, I will never forget dat as long as I live, on my birthday, 6th of August dis year, him call mi an' sing mi Happy Birthday. I will hold that forever.”

Lee, who had been ailing for some time, died last Tuesday at the University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew. He was 79.

Smith — the 2013 recipient of a silver Musgrave Medal for his contribution to Jamaican music — remembers Lee for his ability to identify talent and knack for creating hit songs.

“If him tell yuh sey something ah go happen, it will happen. I remember wi band Soul Syndicate; him did rate di band as a band weh come from inna him area. He carried us to di studio an' we became like one of di greatest bands because he saw that in our future. Di same way he would see artiste an' recognise their talent an' jus' know...Him have vision,” said Smith. “A lot of these talent that you would never recognise, he would jus' see it fast. So when him tell someone seh: 'Dis going be di thing', people see it work. He still had that vision right up until his 'going out'. Him have dat vision of knowing what to do an' who are di people to bring in to create dat magic. Striker Lee is a guru of Jamaican music.”

Soul Syndicate was one of the top session bands from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s. In the 1970s they also recorded for producers Keith Hudson and Winston “Niney” Holness. In addition to Smith, its core members were: drummer Carlton “Santa” Davis, bassist George “Fully” Fullwood, rhythm guitarist Tony Chin, and keyboardist Bernard “Touter” Harvey.

The nucleus of Soul Syndicate, along with bass player Robbie Shakespeare, recorded as The Aggrovators for Lee.

Bunny Lee's given name was Edward O'Sullivan Lee. He learned the music business pushing songs at dances by Duke Reid and Clement “Coxsone” Dodd during the early 1960s.

Late that decade, Lee introduced the Greenwich Town sound to the mainstream through a series of lovers' rock songs. They included Conversation (The Uniques), Everybody Needs Love (Slim Smith), Smooth Operator, Better Must Come (Delroy Wilson) and Stick By Me (John Holt).

In the 1970s he produced several hard-hitting songs by Rastafarian artistes including Max Romeo's Let The Power Fall, Johnny Clarke's None Shall Escape The Judgement, and The Gorgon by Cornel Campbell.

Lee's success opened doors for the Hoo Kim brothers to launch Channel One at nearby Maxfield Avenue in 1972. For the next decade, Kingston 13 was the leading source of hit songs in Jamaica.

Credited for introducing the 'Flying Cymbal' drum sound to reggae, Lee also had a licensing deal with British label Trojan Records which made him a popular figure in the United Kingdom for over 40 years.

“Striker rule England from di late 70s, di whole a 80s an' di 90s,” said Smith. “Is a real godfather. A nuff little youth him tek off di streets.”

A documentary film, directed by English flautist Diggory Kenrick, entitled I Am The Gorgon — Bunny Striker Lee and the Roots of Reggae, was released in 2015. Reggae Going International 1967-1976: The Bunny 'Striker' Lee Story, a book/compact disc, was also released in 2015.

In 2008, Lee was awarded the Order of Distinction (Officer Class) by the Jamaican Government for his contribution to the development of the country's music.

He is survived by widow Annette, and several children.


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