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Artist Hall of Fame

Sugar MinottText by Harry Hawks

Sugar Minott’s honesty shone through in everything that he ever did and his untimely death has sent shock waves throughout the reggae world.
Date Added: Jul 20, 2010, Date Updated: Jul 5, 2019 Copyright (C) 2019 Dub Store Sound Inc.
Real Name: Lincoln Barrington Minott
May 25, 1956 - Jul 10, 2010
Place of Birth: Kingston
Jamaica
Related Artist(s):
African Brothers
Tony Tuff
Little John
Junior Reid
Tristan Palmer
Yami Bolo
Tenor Saw
Johnny Osbourne
Garnett Silk
Tony Rebel
Nitty Gritty
Don Angelo
Daddy Freddie
Jah Stitch
"I started singing when I was about twelve in an amateur talent contest near where I lived in Maxfield Park in Kingston..."

But Sugar did not remain an amateur for long and alongside Derek 'Eric Bubbles' Howard and Winston 'Tony Tuff' Morris he began his musical career as one of The African Brothers. The group did not record many records but every release was superb such as the inspirational 'Lead Us Heavenly Father' for Jimmy Radway, the beautiful 'Mystery of Nature' also known as 'Mysterious Nature' for Rupie Edwards, 'Hold Tight' for Clive Chin at Randy's(Randys), the joyous 'Party Night' for Duke Thelwell, which was a big hit when released on Dukie's, and the self produced 'Torturing' on Del Tot. After recording 'No Cup No Brock' for Studio One Sugar left the group to work with Mr Dodd(CS Dodd) as a solo artist. He had arrived at his audition with a song that fitted an existing rhythm track and Sugar felt that Coxsone was interested because "he don't have to go and make no music". He signed Sugar to a one year contract but Sugar would stay at Studio One for six years writing, singing and providing harmonies and guitar backing for other artists' recordings.

During the seventies Jamaica's top hit making producers including Joe Gibbs(Joel Gibson) & Errol Thompson as The Mighty Two, the Hookim Brothers(Joseph Hookim) at Channel One, Bunny 'Striker' Lee(Bunny Striker Lee) and Augustus Pablo had returned time and time again to adopt, adapt and update countless Treasure Isle and Studio One rhythms from the previous decade. Sugar and Mr Dodd now came with a different approach: instead of updating and re-recording the rhythms Coxsone simply dusted down and remixed his original tapes while Sugar sang brand new songs over them.

A precocious and extremely talented singer and songwriter Sugar's ability to write new songs to fit over classic rhythm tracks that "sat down 'pon the rhythm like he was sitting in an armchair" was unerring; his compositions sounded as if they had been written expressly for the vintage rhythms. Among his early successes was his masterful adaptation of the Leroy & Rocky's 'Love Me Girl' entitled 'Wrong Doers' credited to Lincoln Minott and he continued to cut numerous singles at Brentford Road. His debut 1978 long player 'Live Loving', one of the few Studio One albums to be released in the UK through Peckings Studio One shop in London's Shepherds Bush, "sold like a forty five" made his name and established his reputation forever. Suddenly Sugar Minott seven inch Studio One singles were everywhere, not just in the handful of reggae specialist shops that sold 'oldies', and they sold better than most new records. His 1979 update of The Tennors' 'Pressure & Slide' which he transformed into a ganja anthem 'Oh Mr DC' was a massive hit. It is also credited as one of the first Scientist mixes. 'Vanity' an update to Alton Ellis' 'I'm Just A Guy' and 'Give Me Jah Jah', another update to another Alton Ellis classic 'Breaking Up', became better known than the original hit versions. A further half dozen songs were rapidly assembled for the 'Sugar Minott Showcase' album where Sugar's songs were successfully segued into instrumental and dubbed versions of the rhythms.

It was largely due to the impact of Sugar's 'Live Loving' album that Studio One now began to enjoy a well deserved and long anticipated renaissance. Johnny Osbourne's 'Truth And Rights' and Freddie McGregor's 'Bobby Bobylon' albums completed a trio of long players that laid down a template that the remainder of the reggae business would adhere to for the next two years.

The Youth Promotion and Black Roots labels were set up by Sugar in 1979 not only because he wanted his own independence but also to foster and develop young talent from the ghetto to "help youth from going through the same struggle as me." Ranking Joe's 'Youth Man Promotion' single, released on Youth Promotion that year, served as a mission statement for Sugar's exciting new organisation, and as Joe deejayed as only he knew how Sugar trilled in the background "for the youths in the ghetto..." Despite his huge success Sugar always remained loyal to his ghetto roots and associates including Barry Brown, Little John, Junior Reid and his partner from the African Brothers Tony Tuff. His first twelve inch release in the UK on the Sufferers Heights label, 'Hard Time Pressure' an update of Hopeton Lewis' 'Sounds & Pressure' with a deejay section from the talented Captain Sinbad, was a huge hit and Sugar became a star in England.

Island's Mango Records released Sugar's superb self produced 'Black Roots' long player towards the end of that year and he travelled to London in 1980 and stayed for an extended period adding immeasurably to the local reggae scene. His forays into England's indigenous 'lovers rock' style were every bit as masterful as his Jamaican records and Black Roots releases such as 'Lovers Rock' and 'Make It With You' (a duet with Carroll Thompson) were massive. Sugar's prolific output was matched only by his prodigious talent. His cover of 'Good Thing Going (We've Got A Good Thing Going)' for Roy Forbes Allen of Hawkeye Records broke into the UK National Charts in 1981 reaching Number 4 in the spring of that year when it was licensed to RCA. When major labels approached Sugar to sign on the dotted line he refused unless the Youth Promotion crew were also included. Needless to say his altruistic approach was not what the majors wanted.

"Sugar rose from ghetto youth to international superstar. But, unlike many others in the same position, Sugar has chosen to put back into the music what he has reaped from it by adopting and teaching the talented youths in the ghetto, the real roots of reggae music." Beth Lesser 'Youth Promotion' Reggae Quarterly Number 6 1985

Sugar continued to make records, both for himself and for other producers, that defined the dance hall era. He had single handedly created the genre and in 'Slice Of The Cake', a 1983 Nura release, he sought to make this clear: "Give me a slice of the cake that I man helped to bake..." His services were always in demand from other producers and Sugar never failed to deliver the goods including George Phang's 'Buy Off The Bar', the Hookims at Channel One with 'No Vacancy' and 'Too Much Backbiting' and countless others. His catalogue was as massive and as all encompassing as his far reaching influence. As digital rhythms came to the fore Sugar was at the front once again with 'Rub A Dub Sound' and 'Herbman Hustling' for Sly & Robbie. Their exciting work signalled a way out of the cul de sac that dance hall music had been temporarily backed into in the hands of lesser talents.

He established the Youth Promotion Sound System with legendary deejay Jah Stitch, now Major Stitch, selecting and operating and the roll call of artists who first held a microphone on their set reads like a who's who of top Kingston talent. Youth Promotion soon became one of the top sound systems and tapes of their sessions are highly prized among the cognoscenti.

He went on to consolidate his position as one of Jamaica's all time musical greats. At his creative peak Sugar had proved to be a phenomenon and he now came to be regarded as one of reggae's elder statesmen as he continued to make his own marvellous music and promote the music of up and coming singers and deejays. His influence within Jamaican music was incalculable as a singer, songwriter, musician, deejay, arranger, record producer and sound system controller yet he always remained a gentle and modest man unaffected by the effect his personality and music had on so many people.

"He complained of feeling ill on Saturday (10th July) and was taken to the University Hospital of the West Indies, St. Andrew where he died minutes after ten p.m.." At the time of writing the cause of his death remains unconfirmed. The reggae world has lost one of its genuine greats and Sugar's towering presence will be missed more than words can say.

All at Dub Store send their sincere condolences to Sugar's family and friends at this very sad time.

17th July 2010
Jul 20, 2010 (Jul 5, 2019 Update) Text by Harry Hawks
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