The Soul of Urban Culture

Get Adobe Flash player


Reggae great Sugar Minott dead at 54

by Kerry Doole

A giant of reggae music has been silenced. News of the death of Sugar Minott in Kingston, Jamaica, on July 10, at age 54,-has greatly saddened his many fans here in the GTA.

Minott had actually been scheduled to perform in Toronto in May, but the gig was shelved after the singer began suffering chest pains. He died at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, and the cause of death was not initially disclosed by his wife Maxine Stowe.

The singer (real name Lincoln Barrington Minott). was born in Kingston in May 1956.. He began his musical career in the late ‘60s as a member of the trio African Brothers, prior to becoming a successful solo artist in Jamaica in the ‘70s. He was one of the most influential figures in underground reggae during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He broke through on the sound system circuit with songs like Ruff Ole Life, River Jordan, Vanity and Mr DC.

He recorded at the legendary Studio One, and his sweetly soulful vocal style soon won him fans around the globe. His biggest ever hit was his 1981 cover of the Jackson Five's "Good Thing Going," which reached No. 4 on the United Kingdom's singles chart. In the early ‘80s, Minott became a bigger star in the U.K. than Jamaica, and he relocated there for a spell. His 1979 album Black Roots is viewed as a reggae classic, while 1984 album Herbman Hustling, produced by Sly and Robbie, took an electronic approach.

Minott also played a key role in promoting the careers of other Jamaican artists, through his own record label, Black Roots, and promotion company Youthman. Minott also had an impact as producer, working with the likes of Junior Reid, Tenor Saw, Nitty Gritty, Tristan Palmer, Little John and Barry Brown all recorded for Black Roots.. Other performers such as Garnet Silk and Tony Rebel were groomed by Youthman. Reid praised him in an Associated Press interview after his death, noting that "Sugar Minott was a man who gave a lot of strength to the music although he got no love from the business."

Minott was a prolific recording artist, with over 60 albums and hundreds of singles to his credit. He was also influential musically. His own style mixed roots, lovers rock and dancehall elements, and as a producer and label head Minott helped introduce dancehall to mainstream radio. A single he recorded with Sly & Robbie in 1984” "Rub a Dub Sound Style" is regarded as a forerunner of the ragga style that developed in the mid-1980s.

Sugar Minott was known as a compelling performer, and he frequently played gigs in Toronto and other Canadian cities. He also collaborated with some Toronto artists, contributing to Dubmatix’s last album, Renegade Rocker, and producing vocalist Uncle Jonny.

Sugar Minott will indeed be missed.