Black Music Month: Barrington Levy

June is Black Music Month and WERS at Night will recognize black musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters who have made enormous contributions to the music industry. Today, June 22th, Rockers is highlighting Barrington Levy.

Barrington Levy, born on April 30th, 1964 in Kingston, Jamaica, is a living dancehall legend. Beginning the height of his career in the 80s, Levy continues his success still releasing music to date. His first single was released in 1977 at the age of fourteen when Levy was gaining popularity in the dancehall scene.

When Levy met producers Junjo Lawes and Hyman Wright, he recorded his popular hit “Shine Eye Girl” and other tracks that were popular in the dancehalls, “Ah Yah We Deh” and “Collie Weed”.

Soon after releasing these singles, Levy began collaborations with Jah Thomas, Toyan, and Trinity. By 1980, Barrington was playing Reggae Sunsplash, already having four albums of material to perform off of including Bounty Hunter, which had the singles “Reggae Music”, “Shine Eye Girl”, and “Looking My Love”, Burning Sounds Label, and Shine Eye Girl which included the single “Collie Weed”.

The sound Barrington was creating used the roots sound but gave it a hard edge, giving dancehall a new vibe. With the release of albums Englishman and Robin Hood, Levy was an unstoppable force in Jamaica and his talent was growing and spreading over to the U.K. After the albums, unfortunately, Levy slowed down with the album releases, but made up for it in the next few years to come with the release of the hit “Under Mi Sensi”, which he produced with Jah Screw in 1984, along with the chart topping album Here I Come, released in the same year. He toured the U.K. with these hits and won the Best Vocalist Award at the British Reggae Awards that same year.

Barrington was on the track to stardom. He did not slow down in his releases, doing some work with Frankie Paul before releasing his next big hit, “Prison Oval Rock” in 1985. Levy was continuing to tour and perform big shows like the Reggae Sunsplash, and after 1988, and took a break and came back in the 90s with an attempt to reach the U.S audience by signing with MCA in ’93. He released the Barrington album, which brought the classic Murderer, and featured the past hit “Under Mi Sensi”. The album did not have the success that was expected and Levy’s time with MCA was cut short.

After that period, “Living Dangerously” was released on a compilation album in 1996. It featured Bounty Killer and climbed the reggae charts, adding it the list of Levy classics.

Barrington Levy still releases music – mostly collaborations – and has a final album in the works that will be titled It’s About Time. The album is said to feature some of his classic hits as well as heavy hitters Snoop Dogg, Heavy D, Buju Banton, Damian Marley, and more. The album is set to release some time this year.

With Barrington being one of my introductions to reggae and dancehall music, I will always appreciate his contributions. “Here I Come” was the first song I ever memorized listening to my Dad’s mixtape; I would try to duplicate his signature riff, evidence that Barrington has left a legacy, creating music for generations. For this, WERS honors him for Black Music Month! Be sure to tune in all month as we honor the best in black music.

By Martika Mercer

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