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Artist Hall of Fame

Big YouthText by Harry Hawks

One of the most important and influential stylistic and artistic innovators of the second half of the twentieth century…
Date Added: Apr 26, 2013, Date Updated: Jan 10, 2018 Copyright (C) 2022 Dub Store Sound Inc.
Real Name: Manley Augustus Buchanan
Apr 19, 1949 -
Place of Birth: Kingston
Related Artist(s):
U Roy
Jah Stitch
I Roy
Prince Jazzbo
It is now more than forty years since Big Youth first entered a recording studio but his music still sounds every bit as new, as different, as committed and as revolutionary as it did in the early seventies. Setting new standards for deejays to say something constructive Big Youth progressed several steps further than his predecessors and elevated the art of deejaying into an internationally recognisable and recognised art form.

Born Manley Augustus Buchanan 19th April 1949 Big Youth's father, a police officer, left the upbringing of his children to their mother. She brought up her family of five in Rae Town and Princess Street, Kingston, Jamaica and, when he reached the age of fourteen, she decided that her son should learn a trade and he started to train as a mechanic.

"Big Youth has had the sort of life that few of us would really want (if we had the choice) even though we all like to read about it." Chris Lane

Known from his early teens as 'Big Youth' because of his height he eventually found regular work on the construction of Kingston's Sheraton and Skyline hotels where he was paid handyman's wages for a mechanic's job. The Youth found solace in the Rastafarian religion and would sing and shout as he worked... listening to his voice echo through the half built rooms.

"While I was at Sheraton every time I see something it would echo to me... and my voice would echo back from the wall to me." Big Youth

Already a regular at Kingston's sound system dances Big Youth began to ask for a turn on the microphone and would learn how to hold a crowd. When he had their attention he would extol the Rastafarian religion and plead with the trigger happy rude boys to "leave their skengs at home". He was a fast learner and in March 1971 he took over from Jah Stitch as the resident deejay for Lord Tippertone Hi Fi... the only credible rival to King Tubby's Home Town Hi Fi with I Roy as the regular deejay. I Roy had encouraged Big Youth at the start of his career and often let the Youth hold the mic. but there was no quarter given when the two sound systems clashed in competition.

Big Youth's first record, 'Movie Man' a version of Errol Dunkley's cut to the evergreen 'I Don't Know Why'/'Movie Star' produced by Gregory Isaacs, was released in January 1972 on the Zarina label but it was not a big seller.

"That was a failure but I kept on trying with my next record 'Black Cinderella' (also known as 'The Best Big Youth' for Jimmy Radway) and then I did one for the Upsetter called 'Mooving Version' (a version to Bob Marley & The Wailers' 'Keep On Moving'). Then I started selling with tunes like 'Tell It Black', 'Phil Pratt) 'Killer', 'Tippertone Rocking' (for Gussie Clarke) and 'Chi Chi Run' (for Prince Buster) before I got my first Number One: 'Ace 90 Skank'." Big Youth

This Keith Hudson production proved to be Big Youth's breakthrough. 'Ace 90 Skank' was released on Keith's Mafia label in July 1972 and musician and producer Ossie Hibbert recalled that it was a breakthrough for him as well.

"When I became a full time musician the song that really broke me was 'Ace 90 Skank'... before that nobody really knew me. It was only Bunny Lee(Striker Lee) and some of the other producers who knew me. The rhythm was on one track... and we just took it away! When Big Youth came on that rhythm that made me famous and then people like Duke Reid used to use me." Ossie Hibbert

This was a highly significant period for Big Youth. Not only did he release his first Number One tune, Ace 90 Skank, he also began his own Negusa Nagast (Amharic for 'King Of Kings') label with the incredible double sider 'Children Children'/'Mr. Buddy' and released his debut album for Augustus Gussie Clarke. 'Screaming Target' first appeared on Dynamic's Jaguar subsidiary and then on Gussie's own label in Jamaica before London's Trojan Records secured the rights for the UK release of this seminal outing.

"It took a relatively inexperienced nineteen year old producer, Gussie Clarke, to bring out the best in the deejay. Gussie came from the same rough downtown district as Big Youth and was far more in tune with the vibe on the street than the older established producers... Gussie's recipe for success had been simply to record the deejay on an uncluttered dub mix of the rhythm, thus creating more space for Big Youth's spontaneous chanting style to work in." Dave Hendley

The voice of Big Youth, which had once only echoed around empty, half built hotel rooms, would, from now on, echo internationally and Jah Youth was the all too audible, authentic sound of the Kingston ghettos. Always trying to educate his listeners his lyrics provided penetrating insights into the stark poverty in the ghettos and the influence of Rastafarianism on the youth of Jamaica. As well as his own classic productions on the Negusa Nagast and Agustus Buchanan labels such as 'Sky Juice', 'Hot Stock', 'Wolf In Sheep Clothing' and 'Miss Lou Ring Ding' he recorded innumerable essential records for other producers including releases for Bunny Wailer, 'Bide'/'Black On Black', Vivian 'Yabby You' Jackson(Vivian Jackson), 'Yabby Youth', Winston Riley, 'All Nations Bow', and The Abyssinians 'I Pray Thee'. Big Youth's ascendancy was based on the eternal values inherent in his work and he went on to fashion and develop a career in reggae music that only a handful of artists could ever match.

"The Youth, with seven records on the local charts, is at the top of the ladder. Some say he won't last because he has come on so strong and so quickly. But the Youth understands his people and understands his time. The message of peace, love and unity is everlasting. 'Our only hope' he says 'is for us all to get together'". Jean Fairweather

Everything and anything went into the Big Youth mix in order to create something startlingly original and, as he rode the rhythms, he added observations on life in the ghetto, evangelised for his Rastafarian faith, added children's rhymes, cinema references, mento couplets, pop and soul songs and lines inspired by The Last Poets. He continued to produce classic after classic after classic and the body of work that he assembled during the seventies still sounds, and will continue to sound, every bit as idiosyncratic as it did at the time. Big Youth will always be far, far more than a reggae phenomenon; he is a legend in his own lifetime whose musical and lyrical innovations are still reverberating all around the world.

"These are the words of Big Youth, uncrowned king of dance hall deejays..." Jean Fairweather
Apr 26, 2013 (Jan 10, 2018 Update) Text by Harry Hawks
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Hit titles
Big Youth, Various - Screaming Target (Included 14 Bonus Tracks)
CD Big Youth, Various - Screaming Target (Included 14 Bonus Tracks) Trojan UK
¥2480 (US$18.37)
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Big Youth - Natty Universal Dread (1973-1979) (3CD Box Set)
CD Big Youth - Natty Universal Dread (1973-1979) (3CD Box Set) Blood & Fire UK Info: Deleted
¥4380 (US$32.45)
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Big Youth - Chi Chi Run (Dennis Brown, Little Youth, Prince Buster All Stars) (Skip)
LP Big Youth - Chi Chi Run (Dennis Brown, Little Youth, Prince Buster All Stars) (Skip) Prince Buster
¥2080 (US$15.41)
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Big Youth - Screaming Target
LP Big Youth - Screaming Target Trojan UK
¥2080 (US$15.41)
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Carl Bradney - Slipping In To Darkness
10" Carl Bradney - Slipping In To Darkness / Big Youth;Leroy Smart - Street In Africa; Love And Happiness PK Records UK Info: Adapted
¥1580 (US$11.70)
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Big Youth - Cool Breeze
7" Big Youth - Cool Breeze Negusa Nagast UK Stop That Train
¥1280 (US$9.48)
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Big Youth - Screaming Target (Colored Vinyl)
7" Big Youth - Screaming Target (Colored Vinyl) Negusa Nagast UK You Don't Love Me/No No No
¥980 (US$7.26)
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Big Youth - A So We Stay
7" Big Youth - A So We Stay Joe Gibbs Money In My Pocket
¥1280 (US$9.48)
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Dennis Brown - Westbound Train
7" Dennis Brown - Westbound Train / Big Youth - Ride On Observer UK Westbound Train
¥1200 (US$8.89)
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Big Youth - Every Nigga Is A Star (Colored Vinyl)
7" Big Youth - Every Nigga Is A Star (Colored Vinyl) Negusa Nagast UK Sweat For You Baby
¥1380 (US$10.22)
Big Youth - Hit The Road Jack
7" Big Youth - Hit The Road Jack Negusa Nagast UK Love Me Forever
¥900 (US$6.67)
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Big Youth - I Pray Thee
7" Big Youth - I Pray Thee Clinch Satta Massa Ganna
¥600 ¥499 (US$3.70)
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Big Youth - My Time
7" Big Youth - My Time Negusa Nagast UK My Time
¥1280 ¥1080 (US$8.00)
Big Youth - Big Youth Capitalist (Yabby Youth)
7" Big Youth - Big Youth Capitalist (Yabby Youth) Vivian Jackson God Is Watching You
¥1200 (US$8.89)
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Big Youth - What's Going On? (Colored Vinyl)
7" Big Youth - What's Going On? (Colored Vinyl) Negusa Nagast UK
¥1380 (US$10.22)
Big Youth, Half Pint - Marcus Did Warn Them
7" Big Youth, Half Pint - Marcus Did Warn Them Power House Fattie Fattie
¥800 (US$5.93)
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Beres Hammond, Big Youth - Good Old Dance Hall Vibes
7" Beres Hammond, Big Youth - Good Old Dance Hall Vibes Harmony House
¥600 (US$4.44)
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Recent arrival(s)
Big Youth - From Ja To Uk
7" Big Youth - From Ja To Uk / KC White - Love Is A Gamble Kc Soul Puff/Reggae Fever EU
¥1580 (US$11.70)
Best selling 7"(s)
Bunny Wailer - Bide Up
7" Bunny Wailer - Bide Up / Bunny Wailer, Big Youth - Bide Solomonic/Dub Store Records JPN Bide Up
   Bunny followed 'Search For Love' with 'Bide Up' another emotional tour de force and with a message so different that it takes a while to fully assimilate. He would later recut the song for his classic solo debut album 'Black Heart Man' but this is the original cut in all its glory. The B-side features one of the two Big Youth versions to the song and the Youth is at his peak here as he reinforces Bunny's message with own his plea for greater understanding: "Be unto one another like a man to a brother…"
¥1980 (US$14.67)
Wailers - Life Line
7" Wailers - Life Line / Big Youth - Black On Black Solomonic/Dub Store Records JPN B: Bide Up
   'Life Line' a gentle, haunting love song showcasing Bunny's sublime vocals over a subtle, restrained rhythm encapsulates in just over two minutes more than many lesser artists manage to express over an entire double album. Big Youth’s plea for tolerance and understanding, one of his two essential cuts of Bunny’s 'Bide Up', was originally released as a double sided single and is one of the hardest to find records on the Solomonic label. Search no more…
¥1980 (US$14.67)
Big Youth - Instant Coma
7" Big Youth - Instant Coma Mafia/Dub Store Records JPN
   VinGordon’s rooty horn on top of a Hudson rhythm. Big Youth riding confidently making it a killer deejay and instrumental
¥1480 (US$10.96)
Big Youth - Every Nigga Is A Star (Colored Vinyl)
7" Big Youth - Every Nigga Is A Star (Colored Vinyl) Negusa Nagast UK Sweat For You Baby
¥1380 (US$10.22)
Big Youth - Honesty
7" Big Youth - Honesty Negusa Nagast UK Slaving
¥1280 (US$9.48)