HARRY Johnson, the former insurance salesman who became one of reggae's top producers in the 1970s, died Wednesday at age 68. Johnson died from diabetes at the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital in his native Westmoreland, his daughter Tara Johnson told the Jamaica Observer. Popularly known as Harry J, Johnson launched his Harry J label in 1966 and had several big hits including The Liquidator by the Harry J All Stars and Young, Gifted and Black done by Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths.
The Liquidator's opening guitar riff inspired the Staples Singers' classic hit I'll Take You There. Johnson also produced singer Lorna Bennett's sultry Breakfast in Bed and the spiritual Book of Rules by the Heptones.
In the early 1980s, he produced Sheila Hylton's cover of the Police's The Bed's Too Big Without You. Drummer Sly Dunbar and his long-time music partner, bassist Robbie Shakespeare, played on The Bed's Too Big Without You. Dunbar said Johnson was “steady as a producer, wasn't afraid to tell yuh what he wanted”.
The Harry J studios in Kingston was a popular recording spot in the 1970s. Bob Marley and The Wailers recorded their first four Island Records studio albums (Catch A Fire, Burnin', Natty Dread and Rastaman Vibration) there.
Harry 'Harry J' Johnson is survived by four children and three grandchildren.