The legendary Black Uhuru is one of the most popular successful reggae group to come out of Jamaica. Although going through numerous lead singers and musicians they have remained to be one of the most recognized and prolific reggae band for over 50 years. Derrick “Duckie” Simpson is the founder and leader of the group.
The roots of Black Uhuru were formed in Kingston’s “Waterhouse” District in the late 60’s. The original Uhuru’s were Derrick “Duckie” Simpson, Euvin “Don Carlos” Spencer and Rudolph “Garth” Dennis. They recorded three tracks “Folk Song” “Time is on Our Side” and “Slow Coach”. Garth left and joined Wailing Souls and Don pursued a solo career.
Duckie reformed the group adding Michael Rose and Errol Nelson both from Waterhouse. They recorded the debut album “Love Crises” in 1977 for Prince Jammy. The album was later re-released as “Black Sounds of Freedom”. Errol later left to join The Jays. He was replaced by female singer Sandra “Puma” Jones and they teamed up with drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare.
This new line up with the added female backing vocals to Duckie’s harmony and Michaels lead along with the riddim twins Sly & Robbie they developed a unique sound. A style that was full of bass thumps, loud drum slaps, sharp keyboards, heavy guitar riffs, dubbed with long instrumentals full of whirly background dub echo noise effects and the signature “woh oh ohs”. This became the classic “uhuru” sound of the 80’s. The first album they released was “Showcase”. They signed with Island Records and began to tour internationally and started working with well accomplished musicians and producers.
During the Island years they released the albums “Red” “Chill Out” “Guess Who Coming to Dinner” and “Sinsemilla”. They made history when they won the first ever grammy award for reggae music in 1984 for the album “Athenm”. Shortly after the grammy Michael Rose left the group to go solo.
Another Waterhouse resident named Delroy “Junior” Reid became the new lead singer. They released two albums “Brutal” and “Positive”. They made two music videos for the tracks “Brutal” and “Great Train Roberry”. Sadly in 1990, due to ill health, Puma Jones passed away and Jr. Reid was at the time having visa traveling issues and decided to go solo.
The original three then reunited in the mid 90’s. They released four albums “Now” “Iron “Storm” “Mystical Truth” and “Strong”. Each album was nominated for grammy. They began touring again internationally. They made an award winning music video for the track “Tip of the Iceberg” featuring rap star Ice-T in 1992. The group then split up again. This time a lawsuit was brought amongst the group of the bands legal rights in a LA county court. Duckie won.
As the new mileniuem approached Duckie found Andrew “Bees” Beckford once again from Waterhouse. They released two albums “Unification” and “Dynasty”. They went on a world tour in 2002 and reunited with Sly & Robbie and recorded a live DVD and album “Dubbin it Live” from the tour. Bee’s has been on and off with the group since then.
Black Uhuru’s long success has allowed them to become ambaassors of reggae while earning several achievements in the music industry. Aside from winning the first reggae grammy they have been nominated 5 more times. They are the only reggae group to have won the Diamonds Awards of Excellence in 1994.
The album “Red” was voted #23 for Rolling Stone list of 100 greatest songs of 80’s. In 2012 they
performed in a broadway musical “Loving the Silent Years” in Los Angeles. And in 2013 Duckie was awarded an lifetime achievement award from the IRWMA. August 31st is now officially “Black Uhuru day” in Las Vegas. With 14 full length, 7 dub, and 4 live show albums they have the second highest album sales behind Bob Marley. Black Uhuru is currently working on a new album…