The Jamaica Observer c ontinues its ‘Reggae 50’ feature on people, organisations, and events that have made an impact on reggae over the past 50 years.
A writer once compared The Mighty Diamonds to American soul group, The Stylistics. He said I Need A Roof, their classic 1975 song, loses nothing to the honey-dripping R&B harmonies of that famous Philadelphia quartet.
This year, The Mighty Diamonds celebrates their 50th ‘strong’. Quite fitting, considering reggae also marks its golden anniversary in 2019.
Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson, Fitzroy “Bunny” Simpson and Donald “Tabby” Shaw started the group in Trench Town in 1969, during an exciting period for Jamaican music. The Wailers were recording some of their best work with producer Lee “Scratch” Perry and a song called Sata Masa Gana by The Abyssinians was released.
It would be a while before ‘The Diamonds’ hit the mark. The breakthrough came in 1973 with the soulful Shame And Pride, but their legacy was ensured when they moved to the rocking Channel One studio mid-decade and linked with The Revolutionaries Band, led by Sly Dunbar on drums.
“The Diamonds is one of the great groups inna reggae; wicked harmonies an’ Tabby is a big singer! One a di best album I ever work on is The Right Time,” Dunbar told the Jamaica Observer in 2003.
Released in 1976, The Right Time is indeed a classic. It contains I Need A Roof, the title song, Shame And Pride, Have Mercy and Africa.
Unlike most of their contemporaries, The Mighty Diamonds maintained their success in the 1980s and 1990s when reggae transitioned from drum-and-bass to digital. They had a massive hit song in 1981 with Pass The Kutchie, which along with Heads of Government and Juvenile Child kept them in tune with an evolving audience.
On March 5, The Mighty Diamonds were among 50 artistes, musicians and producers recognised by the Jamaican government with a Reggae Gold award. They still tour, especially their stomping grounds in Europe and the United States West Coast; Judge and Tabby are active, but Bunny is recovering from a stroke he suffered in 2015.
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