IN 1976 PRINCE JAZZBO would be immortalized on The Upsetters’ Lee Perry-produced classic Super Ape. He voiced the humid, dubbed up stream of consciousness track Croaking Lizard over the rhythm of Max Romeo’s Iron Shirt - referring to tribal war and the all-important natty dread skank, it remains an essential transmission from what many would hold to be the glory years of reggae and dub. Though the success enjoyed by peers including Big Youth and U Roy would elude him, he would sustain a four-decades career as MC, producer and label owner. Born Linval Roy Carter in Clarendon 1951, Prince Jazzbo was first heard at Studio One in 1972, his first hit being the spontaneous, madcap Crab Walking, using Horace Andy’s Skylarking rhythm.
He’d also work with producers Bunny Lee and Glen Brown before hooking up with Perry, recording the admired, Vatican-bashing Natty Passing Thru’ LP (also known as Ital Corner) in 1976. From 1977 he ran the Ujama label – whose label famously carried a picture of jockeys riding a donkey and whose discography would come to feature something of a who’s-who of Jamaican vocalists, including Frankie Paul, Horace Andy, U-Roy and I-Roy, plus many more.
Amusingly, Jazzbo had dueled with the latter on vinyl in 1975 (this musical feud involved Jazzbo answering I-Roy’s demolishing Straight To Jazzbo’s Head with Straight To I-Roy’s Head – subsequent vinyl blows included Jazzbo Have Fe Run and Gal Boy I Roy, all, the story goes, with the encouragement of producer Bunny Lee). The two men would later make peace, recording the duet Live Together in 1990.
A deep listener’s selection rather than a popular choice – though the 1994 Beastie Boys track B-Boys Makin’ With The Freak Freak would observe, “On the mic I bug like I was Prince Jazzbo” – he kept his head down and kept working in the decades that followed, still sounding convincing on releases including Tell Me What, a French released 10” from 2010 that blasted rising prices for the poor while the politicians prosper.
He died on September 11. In an online salute, his publishers Westbury Music wrote, “Jazzbo was never a sophisticated man. He had been born into poverty and, to the end, he continued to live in the family house in Spanish Town, which is still one of Jamaica’s less salubrious (and dangerous…) neighbourhoods. His gruff, chip-on-the-shoulder attitude stemmed from his hard upbringing and his lack of formal education. But, at heart, he was a warm man who was liked by his friends.”
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