The Easy Star family was shocked to learn today of the passing of one of the greatest reggae singers of all time. Sugar Minott, born Lincoln Minott in 1956 in Kingston, died yesterday of a heart attack, though information is sketchy at this point. We are in shock over here, as Sugar has played an enormous role both in the history of reggae and also in the development of Easy Star Records.
Sugar began his career in his early teens as a member of the African Brothers in the early 1970s. In the mid to late '70s, he was one of the first artists to began recording new songs over classic Studio One riddims, helping to create the concept of modern dancehall in the process. His early hits, like "Mr. DC" and "Vanity" and "River Jordan" are cornerstones of modern reggae, still heard in dancehalls throughout the world on a regular basis. He was also one of the first artists of that era to strike out on his own as a producer and sound system operator, forming the Black Roots record label and the Youth Promotion Sound System. He released the seminal album GHETTO-OLOGY in 1979, which spawned a number of hits and helped usher in the next phase of his career. As a singer, producer, teacher, and mentor, Sugar had a profound influence on reggae music over the past 35 years.
At the same time, he was a huge part of Easy Star Records. He was one of the first established reggae stars to record with the label, cutting "Born In The Ghetto (Have Mercy)" for EASY STAR VOLUME ONE. After that, Easy Star re-issued GHETTO-OLOGY + DUB, as well as two volumes of HIDDEN TREASURES, which were hand picked tracks from the Black Roots label, with many songs never having been released on CD before. We then released RARE GEMS, which featured some great hard to find Sugar tracks. Lastly, we put out a compilation of African Brothers recordings called WANT SOME FREEDOM (now out of print).
In addition to these releases, Sugar played a large role on the tribute albums by the Easy Star All-Stars. He sings a stunning version of "Exit Music (For A Film)" on RADIODREAD. He killed "When I'm 64" on LONELY HEARTS, which had an arrangement inspired heavily by Sugar's own hit "Herbman Hustling." And he surely would have been involved with the next album, as he had one of the greatest voices in reggae and we loved to hear him sing anything we put to him. The simplest way to put it is that Sugar knew how to sing; he brought soul to everything. He had never heard Radiohead when he came to cut "Exit Music," but he quickly caught on to the emotion of the lyric and made his version so powerful. It's one of those songs where it sounds like it was written with him in mind to sing!
Our love goes out to Sugar's family and all of his fans. We are stunned to have lost someone so talented and important to the genre at such a young age. As more info about Sugar and his death come through, we will update everyone.
Ghetto-ology + Dub