KINGSTON, Jamaica – Ewart Beckford, better known as the reggae artist U-Roy, who is credited with popularising the vocal style known as “toasting,” died in Jamaica last week. He was 78.
U-Roy’s partner, Marcia Smikle, told the The Jamaica Gleaner newspaper that the artist had been receiving treatment for diabetes and high blood pressure, and also suffered with kidney problems.
She said he died at the University Hospital of the West Indies on February 17 last after undergoing surgery.
Following news of U-Roy’s death, tributes began to pour in, with Jamaican reggae artist Shaggy describing him in an Instagram post as a “hero” and a “true legend” who was “a master at his craft”.
U-Roy started his musical career as a DJ in 1961. His first two singles, Wake the Town (1970) and Wear You to the Ball (1970), were Jamaican hits and established his reputation as one of Jamaica’s most popular toasters.
In 1978, U-Roy started his own sound system which he named Stur Gav, after his sons. The sound system would launch the careers of a younger generation of toasters and singers.
In 2004, he was among the artists to feature on Toots and the Maytals’ Grammy-winning all-star album True Love.
He also collaborated with Kafinal, a Jamaican singer based in Toronto. Their song, Nah Complain, won Canada’s Juno Award for Best Reggae Recording in 2016.
Beckford received the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government for his contribution to music in 2007.