Burning Spear Photo
Winston Rodney took his stage name from Jomo Kenyatta, hero of Kenyan independence. The Spear, as he is called, first recorded in 1969 for Coxsone Dodd. Those productions, collected six years later on a pair of Studio One albums, were lean, mysterious, and way ahead of their time: a similar sound would sweep Jamaica in the late 70s and be dubbed the "Rockers" style. Not meeting much initial success, Spear retreated to his rural home in St. Ann's, in the hills of North Coast Jamaica. Eventually he returned in 1975 as part of a self-named trio for producer Jack Ruby. This time the world woke up, and Spear was recognized as a major figure.

After two albums Spear dismissed his backing trio, journeyed to London, and cut one of the most astonishing live reggae sets ever for Island, for whom he recorded until 1980. That same year, he was featured unforgettably in an a cappella performance of "Jah No Dead" in the reggae movie Rockers. Since then he has skipped through several major and minor labels, returning in 1990 to Island, although many of his subsequent releases -- including the ongoing Living Dub series -- appeared under the Heartbeat imprint.

Spear is one of those artists whose style is so immediately recognizable that those who like him from the start seem to have followed his every move with joy. He is similar to a trance singer, especially in his horn-lofted live performances, whirling around the stage with arms outstretched, a dreadlocked dervish chanting of dark carnal nights of captivity and imminent deliverance. By the end of his best shows he has often repeated phrases in delicious delirium, reaching the higher heights (irie ites) that is reggae and Rasta's promised land. Without question, Spear is one of reggae's greats. ~ Roger Steffens, All Music Guide