Remembering Joseph Hill and Culture


Joseph Hill, January 22, 1949 – August 19, 2006

I have to thank my wife for the infusion of more reggae into my life. She’s an island girl (Seychelles), and has grown up loving reggae. One of the great groups she has introduced me to is Culture. They are reggae legends, but I never was too familiar with them until I met her.

Today turned into reggae day for us. We watched Countryman earlier this afternoon. It’s a 1982 film about the adventures of a peaceful rastafarian fisherman. It has an awesome soundtrack of great reggae tunes. So naturally it put us into the reggae mood. So we put on Culture for the rest of the day. In cruising around the web checking out the Wikipedias and the YouTubes, I came to discover that Joseph Hill, lead singer of the group, passed away exactly one year ago today (August 19th). It was after a gig in Germany a year ago that Hill collapsed. It was later attributed to liver failure.

Hill formed Culture in Jamaica in 1976 with his cousin Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes. They soon joined up with producer Joe Gibbs and engineer Errol Thompson, who would help Culture record a string of classic reggae albums, starting with 1977’s Two Sevens Clash. They also worked with some premier musicians of the day, including Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare.

Let’s remember Joseph Hill today with some classic Culture tunes, one of the true pioneers of roots reggae.

CultureI’m Not Ashamed (mp3) – extended version, from Two Sevens Clash: The 30th Anniversary Edition

CultureJah Rastafari (mp3) – from International Herb

CultureThis Train (mp3) – from Cumbolo

CultureWhy Worry About Them (mp3) – from Wings of a Dove

Culture on Culture

Standing in the Rain in Vain

Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised in the Brixton section of London.

Johnson invented dub poetry, a type of toasting descended from the DJ stylings of U-Roy and I-Roy. But whereas toasting tended to be hyperkinetic and given to fits of braggadocio, Johnson’s poetry (which is what it was — he was a published poet and journalist before he performed with a band) was more scripted and delivered in a more languid, slangy, streetwise style. Johnson’s grim realism and tales of racism in an England governed by Tories was scathingly critical. The Afro-Brits in Johnson’s poems are neglected by the government and persecuted by the police. – All Music.com

Well, my introduction to LKJ a few years ago didn’t come via a scathingly critical political song, but a laid back, sweet and humorous tune by the name of “Loraine”. It’s about his encounter with the lovely Loraine on a rainy day in May. Try as he might, ol’ Linton doesn’t get the girl, which gives us the great chorus:

Now I’m standin’ in the rain in vain, Loraine
Hoping to see you again
Tears fall from me eyes like rain, Loraine
A terrible pain in me brain, Loraine
You’re drivin’ me insane

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t know you (or maybe I do), but you’ll like this one.

Linton Kwesi JohnsonLoraine (mp3)

Linton Kwesi JohnsonInglan is a Bitch (mp3)

Get Lucky

Here’s another artist I discovered courtesy of my wife, who lived in Seychelles all of her life until that fateful day we met while she was visiting Arizona. So she introduced me to Lucky Dube. I said “Lucky Doo-Who?” Well, Lucky is a very popular South African Reggae singer, popular all across the African continent. He would even hop a plane over to Seychelles to perform. My wife saw him once. Anyhow, here’s a sample of Lucky Dube (pronounced Doo-Bay, not Doobie you stoners).

Lucky Dube – Rasta Man’s Prayer – from ‘Trinity’, 1995, Tabu Records

Buy ‘Trinity’ on Amazon.
See the All Music entry on Lucky Dube.