Jamaican graphic artiste and photographer Neville Garrick, who was most recognised for his award-winning work as art director for reggae legend Bob Marley, has died.
Garrick passed away peacefully surrounded by family on Tuesday night in California “after a very brief, but brave fight with cancer”, his family announced in a release. He was 73.
Garrick, who was art director at the Daily News daily newspaper in the early and mid-1970s, is best known for designing several Marley album covers, as well as backdrops for the Reggae Sunsplash festival throughout the 1980s. He has also worked with Burning Spear, Steel Pulse, and other major reggae stars.
His daughter, Naomi Garrick, CEO of Garrick Communications Ltd, in reflecting on her father’s passing shared, “Words cannot adequately express the loss that we currently feel as a family to lose our beloved Neville. He was a master storyteller, history keeper, poignant artist, author, speaker, proud KC and UCLA graduate and for us father, Grandpa, ‘Poppy’, provider, friend. Our hearts are broken as we come to terms with this loss. Neville in his own words ‘coloured the music’ but for us, he coloured our lives. Our hope is that his work will continue to be enjoyed and celebrated around the world.”
Born Kenneth Neville Anthony Garrick, his journey through a remarkable 50-year art career left an indelible mark on the realm of music album covers, posters, logos, and staging designs.
The release noted that his artistic genius was most vividly seen in the more than 100 album covers he crafted for legendary reggae artistes such as Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Burning Spear, The Wailers, Steel Pulse, and the I-Three, among others.
“One of his most iconic achievements was the awe-inspiring ‘Haile Selassie I’ stage and lighting design, which accompanied Bob Marley during the revolutionary 1970s and 1980s, solidifying Garrick's status as a visionary force in the global creative landscape,” stated the release, adding “Through his covers, Garrick played a significant role in introducing Ethiopian art and culture to Western audiences.”
Garrick's artistic journey began at Kingston College in Jamaica and later took him to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) on a football scholarship.
“It was during this time that he became a vital part of the Civil Rights Movement, mentored by the esteemed Angela Davis,” the release stated, noting that Garrick was an active member of the Black Students Union and served as the associate editor of Nommo, the nation's oldest ethnic publication on a college campus.
His freshman year saw him organise seven fellow black art students to create "The Black Experience," a mural that would depict the struggles and triumphs of African-Americans in the United States, according to the statement.
This mural, created in 1970, was ceremoniously restored in 2014, bearing witness to Garrick's enduring impact, it added.
After completing his studies, Garrick returned to his hometown of Kingston, Jamaica, where he became the art director of the Jamaica Daily News from 1973 to 1974. In 1974, he embarked on a notable career as the art director for Tuff Gong, a record label formed by the reggae group The Wailers in 1970. His profound friendship with Bob Marley positioned him as a keeper of the artist's legacy. He was entrusted with designing an extension of the Bob Marley Museum and served as the very first executive director of the Bob Marley Foundation from 1990 to 1996.
His contributions extended beyond art, as he co-produced the 1992 documentary "Time Will Tell," which featured rare insights from Bob Marley.
Garrick’s lifelong dedication to the arts was duly recognised when, on August 6, 2005, in a ceremony marking Jamaica's 43rd year of independence, he accepted the Prime Minister's Award for Excellence in honour of his contributions to Jamaican music.
In 2022, the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JARIA) presented Garrick with the Gregory Isaacs Foundation Award for Album Design to highlight and celebrate his significant contributions and achievements which have positively impacted the development and promotion of reggae.
On August 6, 2023 in recognition of his contribution to music, art and culture locally and internationally, he was awarded the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander (CD).
Earlier this year, his first album cover for Bob Marley, “Rastaman Vibration” was also recognised by Billboard Magazine for being #22 Best 100 Album Cover of all time. His last project with the Marley family was in the role of Historic Advisor for the Paramount Films, Bob Marley Biopic: One Love slated for a February 2024 release date.
At the time of his passing, Garrick was working on "Colour the Music," a documentary with his son, Nesta, chronicling his illustrious career as well as completing a series of hand painted works of art celebrating black culture.
He is survived by his brother (Derek), three children (Christopher, Naomi and Nesta), grandchildren (Ajani, Leo, and Lola), former wife and close friend Colette, niece (Jaean) and grand-niece (Jaeda), family members, colleagues, and friends.